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Topic: Chapter 3--Everybody Counts
Replies: 11   Last Post: Mar 18, 1995 1:02 AM

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Michael Paul Goldenberg

Posts: 7,041
From: Ann Arbor, MI
Registered: 12/3/04
Re: Chapter 3--Everybody Counts
Posted: Mar 14, 1995 11:43 PM
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On Tue, 14 Mar 1995, Andrei TOOM wrote:

> On Tue, 14 Mar 1995, Ronald A Ward wrote:

> > 2. In what sense is mathematics our "invisible culture"?
> Mathematics is part of culture. The adjective `invisible'
> does not make sense here.

I assume that Ron had something specific in mind by the phrase 'invisible
culture'; while I'm not sure to what he is referring, I don't doubt that
his phrase 'makes sense.'

> > 3. Comment on the statement: "As computers become more powerful, the
> > need for mathematics will decline."

> This is too silly to comment.

Andrei, your judgment here may be that the claim in the statement itself
is 'obviously false.' Two points: as a mathematician, aren't you
suspicious of statements in proofs that are simply passed off as
'obvious'? Aren't those often the places where problems and weaknesses occur?
And I don't think Ron was looking for a knee-jerk dismissal but rather a
considered response. If the answer is 'obvious' what harm is there in
spelling it out just a bit?

> > 4. Why is it that mathematics education in the United States resists
> > change in spite of the many forces that are revolutionizing the nature
> > and role of mathematics itself?

> Well, everything resists changes. The right question is `Why do
> Americans tolerate so bad education ?' Because it is a privilege
> in the modern world to be an American. An American does not need
> to be competent. He is an American, and that is it.

I don't know if you wish to apear to be bashing Americans as a whole, but
the statement above, aside from the presumptuousness of your question
being "The right" one, certainly strikes me as overly-broad and extremely
intolerant. Unfortunately, other postings and articles of yours lead me
to suspect that I'm reading you correctly here. If so, I have some questions
for you: if American education is so lousy (and I'm not suggesting that
it's not full of problems and in need of improvement) what made you come
here? And if your analysis of Americans is on the money, what country do
you think is above the criticism that it has many complacent citizens?

If I seem uncharitable towards you and/or your posts, it's because I find
your American-bashing extremely mean-spirited. I don't mind constructive
criticism of this (or any) country. But you seem convinced that your
perceptions of Americans and American education have the "ring of truth."
I'm not suggesting that they have no basis in experience, but that they
reveal at least as much about you as they do about those you look down
upon. You have the right to your opinions and the right to express them.
That's something that not every citizen or resident of every country can
say. One would think that your experience with less tolerant forms of
government might give you pause: maybe the very "slackness" of which you
accuse us is the source of the tolerance that allows you to make such
criticisms without fear. Perhaps that's something you might want to
factor into your analyses of Americans and American education.

-michael paul goldenberg/University of Michigan

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