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Topic: Which Polynomial?
Replies: 28   Last Post: Jul 27, 2006 3:13 PM

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Kirby Urner

Posts: 4,713
Registered: 12/6/04
Re: Which Polynomial?
Posted: Aug 1, 2005 10:07 AM
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> I want to point out that my objection to Kirby had
> nothing to do with the richness of the problem or
> the context. My concern is the same as in the
> case of any prescriptive curriculum. The fact that
> something is rich and interesting is not a
> justification for mandating, but merely a strong
> indication that it can be a recommended approach. I
> have noted in the past that neither the reform nor
> anti-reform crowd seems to get this.

Now all of a sudden it's a "recommended approach" whereas earlier you were being quite the skeptic regarding some bump on the road to knowledge (N).

> Many would-be reformers suffer from a similar
> Napoleonic complex. Sometimes, well-intentioned
> attempts to improve the standards also run into
> absolutists bureaucrats who don't get the difference
> between mandates and recommendations. This is how
> examples of good ideas (as I think Kirby's is)
> end up as required elements of state curricula.

Your little essay against the state's power to mandate curriculum is well-intentioned, however we live in a world where states are far from being the only players, and televisions serve as soap boxes for any with the money to "mandate" that we buy lots of cars, drink beer, and be wild and crazy -- oh, and smoke if we want to. The lifestyles you'll be shown have been run through the money screen. But because that's all "free market" and invisible hand cybernetics, we're supposed to be OK with it? And if not, might state power, also designed to be cybernetic in the USA and sensitive to the people's will, serve as a counterweight? Many economists, including conservative ones, think so. The state comes on and says smoking is bad for you, and being wild and crazy isn't all it's cracked up to be. Typical sobering stuff. We the people want that from television, not just the poor judgment stuff.

So here I am, being in the USA, writing curriculum in which The Pentagon (the building) is an interesting entry point into a rich topical area in mathematics (phi and so on). That's no better and no worse than putting that spooky eye and pyramid on the money. It's the kind of things states do, as managed code or whatever. They're like computer programs. They may not "mandate" in a dorky way, but they surely have ways of being persuasive, just like the advertisers are (yes, it's called propaganda, and yes its powers get abused by nefarious characters from time to time -- not just Napoleon, who sold the French on the idea of Empire (lots of people sell that one)).

> decisions--something that the zealots on either sides
> could never accept.
> VS-)

You're being Mr. Neutral in this post, which is a change of tune I think. You put up some resistence here and there, plus charged at 'y = mx + b'.

In any case, I agree that we don't want states trying to cram any math down our throats, just recommending and being persuasive. Let's all be civilized at this table. I'm all for it. I want kids to experience a lot of freedom and opportunity, and I want that experience to continue when those kids become adults (good judgment is what we'll be needing then). Math attracts positively, it doesn't grab and hold, doesn't strangle. Math teachers encourage independent study -- the discipline expects you'll even practice in solitude quite a bit (not just a team sport). They let kids explore and play in the domain of mathematics. It's not all military drills in here.

But that doesn't curtail my ability to advertise with state machinery, as a member of 'we the people.' I get out there with Howard Dean or whomever, and tout this Official NCLB Polynomial. It sounds ridiculous, and turns a lot of meetings into math lectures, and that's OK. It's funny. I like it. I use it in my campaign. But not in a stupid violent way. I simply plant my Flag of Phi in the Pentagon and celebrate our military acumen. Smart cookies live here. Something like that. An ad. From the point of view of a Quaker, it's a big step forward.


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