“Decolonising Math”: Durham University Asks Professors to Consider the Race of Mathematicians Before Relying on their Work

We previously discussed the view of University of Rhode Island and Director of Graduate Studies of History Erik Loomis that “Science, statistics, and technology are all inherently racist.” Others have agreed with that view, including denouncing math as racist or a “tool of whiteness.” Now, as part of its “decolonization” efforts, Durham University is calling on professors in the math department to ask themselves if they’re citing work from “mostly white or male” mathematicians.

According to the Telegraph and The College Fix a guide instructs faculty that “decolonising the mathematical curriculum means considering the cultural origins of the mathematical concepts, focusses, and notation we most commonly use.”  It adds:

“[T]he question of whether we have allowed Western mathematicians to dominate in our discipline is no less relevant than whether we have allowed western authors to dominate the field of literature. It may even be more important, if only because mathematics is rather more central to the advancement of science than is literature.”

Some professors have objected to being asked to consider the race or gender of mathematicians rather than their underlying theories or formulas.

In the Telegraph article, Exeter University Social Science Professor Doug Stokes is quoted as saying that “[t]he idea behind decolonising maths is that because everyone should be regarded as equal, the status of their beliefs must also be equal.” He denounces that view as “judgmental relativism is an inversion of science that is based on what is real rather than making everybody feel included.”

But all ideas are not equal, particularly math. Some literally do not add up. Math is inherently objective and based on provable tenets or theories. As I discussed earlier, it is a shame to see math treated as a field of privilege when many of us view it as a field of pure intellectual pursuit and bias neutrality.  Either the math is there or it is not.  The race of the mathematician will not change the outcome.

The Durham University guide insists that academics need to not only consider what theories to apply but the race of the theoreticians to “decolonize” math. It does not state how a failure to do so will impact on a professor’s retention or advancement at the university.

 

241 thoughts on ““Decolonising Math”: Durham University Asks Professors to Consider the Race of Mathematicians Before Relying on their Work”

  1. Let’s address the elephant in the room.

    If asserting arithmetic facts like 2+2=4 is in fact an act of colonial whiteness, then every non-white mathematician is de facto guilty of cultural appropriation.

    Either White Math is Math, or it’s White first and Math second. If it’s white first, then non-whites need permission from whites to make a living with it.

  2. Mathematicians should wield all of the poltical power and make all of the decisions because they are most objective people of all, and objectivity tends to beget
    a sense of fairness and justice. Mathocracy.

    1. Math tends to be objective.
      I am less enamored of mathematicians – espeically academics.

      Though they are head and shoulders above those in the liberal arts and soft sciences.

    2. Read “A Beautiful Mind or read about Goedel. Mathematicians at the high end sound like crackpots. Even Newton was something of a nasty person.

  3. I think everyone interested in this topic should read (or listen to as I did since it is on Audible) the outstanding book:

    “Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity―and Why This Harms Everybody Hardcover” – Aug. 25 2020 – it explains how these ridiculous ideas started and why they are a very dangerous threat to our civilization.

    Here is the book: https://www.amazon.ca/Cynical-Theories-Scholarship-Everything-Identity_and/dp/1634312023/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Cynical+Theories&qid=1649914981&sr=8-1

    Here is the Audible version (you have a 4 min audio sample for free on this web page): https://www.amazon.ca/Cynical-Theories-Scholarship-Everything-Everybody/dp/B08LDVW881/ref=tmm_aud_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1649914981&sr=8-1

  4. Quite in line with this lunacy the Rutgers English Department is thinking grammar is racist.

    https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/asinine-rutgers-alters-grammar-rules-for-non-white-students-to-stand-with-black-lives-matter-movement

    Related, the Baltimore symphony is going to use rap lyrics in Beethoven’s 9th.

    “On April 7, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, led by Marin Alsop, will take textual intervention one step further. A poem by Baltimore-based rapper Wordsmith will replace Friedrich Schiller’s “Ode to Joy” in a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.”

    https://slippedisc.com/2022/04/alsop-replaces-schiller-with-rapper-in-beethovens-9th

    Maybe we should stop using any math from white or Asian mathematicians. Oh yes, judging by the numerous attacks on Asians by black thugs we don’t like Asians anymore either.

    Ditto music and grammar and welfare.

  5. The Washington Examiner is lying to you when it says “Math professor claims equation 2+2=4 ‘reeks of white supremacist patriarchy'”

    And you’re lying when you pretend she said “2 + 2= 4 reeks of white supremacy.”

    She didn’t say that the “equation 2+2=4 ‘reeks of white supremacist patriarchy'” or “2 + 2= 4 reeks of white supremacy.”

    She said “Along with the ‘of course math is neutral because 2+2=4’ trope are the related (and creepy) ‘math is pure’ and ‘protect math.’ reeks of white supremacist patriarchy.” Only someone with weak reading comprehension reads what she actually said and interprets it as the “equation 2+2=4 ‘reeks of white supremacist patriarchy.'” If you read the entire thread where she said it, she was discussing a few things, including “a widely held belief that because math is involved, algorithms are automatically neutral. … This is called Mathwashing. When power and bias hide behind the facade of ‘neutral’ math.”

    Also, she isn’t a math professor. She’s a math ed professor (totally different department, different kind of research, …).

    Among the many things we need are people who can discuss issues truthfully. Unfortunately, you’re not one of those.

    1. This is a reply to Young’s 12:05pm comment. It was posted using the “Reply” link on the page but has been decoupled due to some tech glitch.

    2. I used a shortened version that caught her vile prejudices.

      As you note, her full statement is:

      “Along with the ‘of course math is neutral because 2+2=4’ trope are the related (and creepy) ‘math is pure’ and ‘protect math.’ reeks of white supremacist patriarchy.” Only someone with weak reading comprehension reads what she actually said and interprets it as the “equation 2+2=4 ‘reeks of white supremacist patriarchy.’”

      You honestly think that makes her look better. It doesn’t.

      1. I don’t care what opinion you have of her, and I made no statement about what makes her look better or worse.

        I pointed out the fact that she didn’t say or imply that “2 + 2= 4 reeks of white supremacy.”

        “I used a shortened version that caught her vile prejudices.”

        No, you lied and substituted something that she didn’t say and she didn’t imply. Either you prefer your dishonest straw man argument to an honest argument about what she said, or you’re so inept that you have trouble distinguishing between them.

      2. Young, I finally took the time to see what this discussion was actually about. It’s perverse. It is the leftist mindset looking to justify its existence. Why not say ‘Logic is a white supremacist patriarchy’ I’d rather think on nurturing people & protecting the planet with *logic* in service of them goals’. This dimwit wants math to nurture and service her aspirations.

        Isn’t that how we get university quotas and housing quotas? Isn’t that what the left is doing all the time, inappropriately using math to service themselves?

        Mathwashing ‘Languagewashing’ and ‘LINKwashing’ is what Anonymous the Stupid survives on.

        1. S. Meyer–

          I asked anon below if he believed her. His response was “That the trope “reeks”? No.”

          So then, what was that all about? I wonder if his target is the blog itself? Seems like at times. Disruption for the sake of it.

          1. Young, I believe ATS to be a Marxist Revolutionary type despite his vast lack of knowledge. The MR type can mean many things (Marx wasn’t clear), but when his type feels they are losing, they change their game plan and engage in any destruction that permits them to think they are moving forward. ATS is destructive and a liar.

            Note how he modifies his tune when any roadblocks are placed in his way. You say, “I wonder if his target is the blog itself?” Have you noticed that ATS has increased his attacks on Turley?

            1. “Have you noticed that ATS has increased his attacks on Turley?”
              ++
              No, I usually skip over his comments. But both he and Jeff seem to put more effort into throwing sand in the blog gears than actually engaging with others.

          2. “what was that all about?”

            Young, it was about the Washington Examiner’s lie that “Math professor claims equation 2+2=4 ‘reeks of white supremacist patriarchy’” and your lie that she said “2 + 2= 4 reeks of white supremacy.” It was about your choice not to understand something because you’d rather believe a lie that matches your views than educate yourself.

            1. Anonymous the Stupid, you call opinion lies even when those opinions are reasonably proven.

              You are a liar.

      3. The problem is this avowed leftist moron, steeped in the woke nonsense of the day, would embarrass herself no matter what came out of her pie hole.
        2+2 will always equal 4. Anyone who injects racism into that, is a dyed in the wool jacka$$

    3. Anon,

      Let’s try the blackboard:

      “Along with the ‘of course math is neutral because 2+2=4’ trope are the related (and creepy) ‘math is pure’ and ‘protect math.’ reeks of white supremacist patriarchy.”

      You should agree that “are the related (and creepy) ‘math is pure’ and ‘protect math'” are only extra examples and seem to be leading you into confusion. Exclude them.

      The uncluttered version is:

      “[T]he ‘of course math is neutral because 2+2 =4’ trope…reeks of white supremacist patriarchy.”

      Or better put, The statement that: “math is neutral because 2+2=4” reeks of white supremacist patriarchy.

      One could scour Christendom [excluding academia] without finding a stupider statement.

      Except, perhaps, your defence of it.

      1. Your text is in italics:

        … seem to be leading you into confusion.

        Nope. If you see confusion, it’s either your own or you’re imagining it.

        “[T]he ‘of course math is neutral because 2+2 =4’ trope…reeks of white supremacist patriarchy.”

        Or better put, The statement that: “math is neutral because 2+2=4” reeks of white supremacist patriarchy.

        Nope. Better put, “the trope reeks of white supremacist patriarchy,” where the trope she’s referring to is “of course math is neutral because 2+2=4.”

        2+2=4 is a fact. But people regularly use math and mathematize the world in non-neutral ways.

        She makes clear in the thread as a whole — much of which is omitted from your article — that that’s what she’s talking about. For example, she says “read about ‘mathwashing’ here [link]”; refers to the work of Cathy O’Neill (e.g., on the use of algorithms to target ads); cites Borba, M. C., & Skovsmose, O. (1997). The ideology of certainty in mathematics education. For the Learning of Mathematics, 17(3), 17-23; cites Ewing, J. (2011). Mathematical intimidation: Driven by the data. Notices of the AMS, 58(5), 667-673.

        My guess: you haven’t read these.

        For the record, Notices of the AMS is one of the publications of the American Mathematical Society, the largest professional organization of mathematicians in the US. The AMS has a number of publications. The Notices is

        You substitute a “stupid” interpretation. Perhaps you’re too lazy to read the entire thread and understand what you excerpted in context. Perhaps you don’t want to understand what she’s actually discussing.

        1. Anon– “Perhaps you don’t want to understand what she’s actually discussing.”

          +++

          I understand her, and you, all too well.

        2. Anon– “But people regularly use math and mathematize the world in non-neutral ways.”

          +++

          Apparently you can’t distinguish between the neutrality of math itself on the one hand and the uses that it
          may be put to on the other. Those are two different things

          Beyond that, it takes a special species of insanity to conclude that either math or its uses ‘reek of white supremacist patriarchy.” That ‘reek’ doesn’t smell. It’s a twisted bit of mental masturbation.

          Stop indulging these screwballs.

              1. Not a concession, only a reference to your own comment about mental masturbation. You chose not to understand her comment in context, and now you choose not to understand mine in context. As is often the case with you, you’d rather be wrong in a way that’s consistent with your preferred beliefs than learn.

                1. You apparently are able to smell the stench of white supremacist patriarchy in these issues.

                  How nice for you.

                  1. You apparently want to believe that I must agree with her simply because I understand the difference between her actual claim and your non-equivalent substitution.

                    1. That the trope “reeks”? No.

                      Will you admit that the Washington Examiner was lying when it said “Math professor claims equation 2+2=4 ‘reeks of white supremacist patriarchy’” and your claim “2 + 2= 4 reeks of white supremacy” isn’t what she said? Do you understand the difference between what she actually said and your substitution?

    4. I realize you use the identity “Anonymous” to hide the fact that you’re nucking futs from the (imagined) people in your vicinity. Not working, bud.

  6. ‘Now, as part of its ‘decolonization’ efforts, Durham University is . . .”

    The “decolonization” movement in academia is far worse than just being racist, which it is. Academia regards the “colony” as those works in math, literature, et al. produced by white Europeans. Focusing on a creator’s race, then rejecting that work because of his race (i.e., “decolonizing” the curriculum) — that is racist. And to include works in the curriculum because of a creator’s race — that, too, is racist. As with “diversity,” “decolonizing” smears race everywhere.

    But the movement is more pernicious than just being racist: “everyone should be regarded as equal, the status of their beliefs must also be equal.”

    That egalitarianism inspired irrationality is an attack on standards, measurement, science, objectivity. It is a license for an academic to indulge his fantasies, and to peddle ancient superstition as knowledge.

    If you’ve every wondered how an entire body of knowledge could be lost to a culture — *that* is how.

  7. Let’s hope that decolonising mathematician’s are not associated with any space program or scientific endeavor. Rockets will crash and bridges will crumble.

      1. Nice, that disproves all the “Decolonishing math” craziness. Math and science aren’t racist, non-white people can excel on it.

      2. Absolutely, whether one is ATS or another person, we recognize success when we see it. The link was interesting, so I followed the biographies of some of those mentioned.

        I took the first name, Katherine Johnson, and used her foundation’s website to learn something important.

        “Katherine and her family went to church every Sunday. She used to quiz her daughters and have them count everyone in attendance. Katherine was very involved in the church; especially the choir, because of how much she loved music and her skills at the piano.”

        Imagine that! As a child, Katherine Johnson went to church. Maybe religious teachings help people learn and become contributing members of society. The atheist left hates that type of person even though she is black.

        The left is largely responsible for the black community’s failures.

      3. THE BATTLE OF HISTORY
        ______________________

        Africans went on slave ships – after being sold to Arab slave traders by African tribal chiefs.

        J. Robert Oppenheimer created nuclear power and Wernher Magnus Maximilian Freiherr von Braun landed Americans on the Moon.

      4. Did you notice that on the slide for Darden they spelled “mathematician” wrong?

        The new NASA and Smithsonian apparently. Lots of diversity in grammar and spelling.

  8. The new Demonkraut racism (Silberman, etc.) is just like the old deep South Demonkraut racism but with a little more faux “culture” mixed in for cosmetic appeal. And don’t think these new gentle spirit progressives would not hang their political enemies from trees just like their ancestors did.

  9. [OT] This just in- I know a lot of you Trumpists listen to Michael Savage. He just made this appeal to Putin:

    https://youtu.be/Urg0p4GpvZ0

    If you will listen near the end of this 8-minute plea, you will hear this little dig at those who

    “live in a little world of Fox News and like to think that you’re keyboard warriors.”

    Ouch! But what do you expect? Savage is banned from Fox. He appears on Fox’s competitors on the far Right. Newsmax and OAN attack Fox News for being too mainstream. Why doesn’t Turley criticize Newsmax and OAN’s advocacy journalism? Why doesn’t he defend Fox from their attacks?

    Any guesses?

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