The MAA (Mathematical Association of America) in a statement, which I read in an article printed in a recent issue of the “Gilbert” magazine (American Chesterton Society), concluded that since mathematics is created by humans who are biased then mathematics is inherently biased. Sited were a number of mathematicians throughout history who were white. Essentially, then, students of color cannot become successful and proficient in mathematics because of racism. That is what I gathered from the article if we cut to the chase. I offer ten of the most impactful black mathematicians as an evident refutation of the MAA bias premise:
- Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806m
- Charles Lewis Reason (1818-1893)
- Kelly Miller (1863-1939)
- Dudley Weldon Woodard (1881-1965)
- Martha Euphemia Lofton Haynes (1890–1980)
- Elbert Frank Cox (1895-1969)
- William Waldron Schieffelin Claytor (1908-1967)
- Marjorie Lee Browne (1914-1979)
- David Harold Blackwell (1919-2010)
- Jesse Ernest Wilkins Jr. (1923-2011)
As a retired high school Mathematics teacher, of 30 years, the point being made by the MAA is mute, on two points. One, because mathematics was not a creation of man. How is this so? By a simple challenge. Think of an original thought that can be brought by you to reality, without something that already exists aiding in that “original” thought. I know that I can’t. One might argue that the creation of the sail that powers boats along the waterways and across the seas is a creation of man. But, we must ask this question: What if there were no winds to be harnessed by the sail? Would there be any motivation to make such a thing if it would have no purpose? I think not. No wind, no sail. But there is air movement. Therefore, a sail served a purpose. Therefore it was invented. Now as defined: to invent is to be the originator of something not known. So our first sail maker is better labeled as inventor rather than creator. For, a prior creation was requisite for that invention. God in one thought created the Heavens, Earth and all hierarchies of life from nourishing minerals to man. In His Word, He graced each in saying it was good. God’s sole requisite is Himself.
The second point being an intentional disregard for the Law of First Principle. A man buys a new car. It comes with a manual from the car’s designer for operation. In following the manual the man gets the best performance and longevity from his new car. Now if he puts it to the side and operated it by his own preferences or whims, then he will find it more in the repair shop than out. And, as well, will find it on the junk heap well before its time. God, the divine designer, too, gives us a manual for a best performing life and one of longevity, with a final destination that ends not on a junk heap but in the New Heaven, as promised, should we follow it. This life manual for success is authored by The One who has included all things of His creation, yes, even mathematics, which are subject to Nature Law and First Principle. Any deviation from such guidance driven by wanton desires compels one to bias. Bias toward a perversion of truth, which leads to no good end. Content is afforded one who exercises Common Sense in these matters.
Thomas Sowell, the author of “Charter Schools and Their Enemies,” discusses a study made of a particular inner city school district with students from both public and Charter schools housed in the same building. Math test scores were compared over time with only 10% of public school students passing, while 68% of their counter-part Charter school mates passed. Both having the same curriculum and the mode of evaluation. Why is this so? It can’t be bias as professed in the article for no advantage was given to the Charter School over the Public School students, other, perhaps, than in the goals set for the students by their teachers and administrations. Here is the likely difference. The modern charter school’s priority emphasizes teaching students how to think, the public schools priority appears to emphasize teaching students what to think. This is the difference between success and failure, hope and despair.
It would be remiss to not mention Jaime Alfonso Escalante Gutiérrez (December 31, 1930 – March 30, 2010) who was a Bolivian-American educator known for teaching students calculus from 1974 to 1991 at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles. The multi-documented successes of his East L.A. students casts further doubt on the MAA assertions.
Man is graced with a Free Will because God did not want to be surrounded by automatons. We could choose to accept Him or reject Him. That is why God finds us so charming when we choose Him. As we can see, man can go but two ways in exercising his free will. He can choose what he ought or what he wants. One determines the humble, the other the egotist. He can be cooperative or contrary. In his contrariness we see his ego rising and a detrimental bias cultivated. As regards mathematics and bias. It is man alone who, if he so chooses, is capable of implanting bias and all the modern isms into every principle that he studies or imparts upon the youth, including mathematics.
I dare say that the indoctrinated student, through a curriculum which is subject to political correctness and governed by unions, would fare best from a reawakening to the traditional. Through a Catholic and classical education, devoid of hyphenated representation of each student, found especially at a unique G. K. Chesterton school, where the only bias is a proclivity toward the cross.