Saturday, November 07, 2009

Poetry, John Dewey, and Connected Mathematics

Galileo said, "Mathematics is the language with which God has written the universe." I have told this to my son a few times, but the last time I told this to my son he replied, "But Dad, I thought poetry was the language of God." Wow! I was pleased with that sentiment.

In the November 7, 2009, Wall Street Journal I saw this wonderful quote from Dusa McDuff, a mathematician at SUNY Stony Brook about the great Russian mathematician Israel Gelfand: "Gelfand amazed me by talking of mathematics as though it were poetry."

There is something special and transcendental about mathematics. Plato knew mathematics was special, including mathematics and philosophy in his plan for the ideal education for leadership.

John Dewey, the atheist whose ideas are the foundation of contemporary American educational theory, did not believe in any transcendental qualities. John Dewey saw no poetry in mathematics. John Dewey had a distinct dislike for mathematics. John Dewey's dislike for mathematics is the poison in the well that has made American mathematics education the sick child of the world.

It is no wonder that Connected Math is a boondoggle: progressive education is anti-math. My son used to love mathematics. Now that he is in the Connected Math curriculum he has come to dislike math. Having experienced Connected Math I think it is fair to describe it as politically correct (PC) math: what was correct last week is wrong this week.

The Plano ISD lags behind all of its neighbors in the percentage of Exemplary and Recognized schools, and I believe that Connected Math is contributing to the academic decline of the Plano ISD. The Allen ISD, Frisco ISD, and the Richardson ISD all have avoided Connected Math and they all show better results than the Plano ISD.

Plano parents sued the district over Connected Math. You can read some of the depositions here. The parents were right, the administrators were wrong, and it is the children who pay for the blunders of stubborn bureaucrats.

There is beauty in mathematics. I hope my son's love for math will be rekindled once he is finished with the Connected Mathematics curriculum.

Robert Canright

The WSJ quote was from "Russia's Conquering Zeros" by Masha Gessen

Recommended reading: "Method, Social Science, and Social Hope", pp. 191 - 210 in Consequences of Pragmatism by Richard Rorty, 1982.
Specifically, see this on page 204: "Dewey and Foucault make exactly the same criticism of the tradition. They agree, right down the line, about the need to abandon traditional notions of rationality, objectivity, method, and truth.... there is no overarching ahistorical structure (the Nature of Man, the laws of human behavior, the Moral Law, the Nature of Society) to be discovered."