Date: Oct 13, 2012 11:52 AM
Author: Robert Hansen
Subject: Re: Jo Boaler reveals attacks by Milgram and Bishop

This is amazing that Michael would post this. When I started posting here at math-teach long enough for Michael to decide that he did not like my opinions regarding mathematics education (after 3 posts) it became clear to me that when Michael doesn't like your opinion, he doesn't like you personally. As we are all probably aware, some more than others, personal attacks are prohibited on this forum and are (usually) blocked by the moderator. I don't have to imagine Michael's frustration after having typed a 200 word attack only to watch it go into the vacuum of space because the moderator pressed "Disapprove". What I find to be harassment (and a form of stalking) is what Michael did next, he emailed me personally. I don't mean like "Hey Bob, don't take my posts the wrong way, I can get passionate about mathematics sometimes." To which my reply would have been "No worry, me too." No, he used the unsolicited opportunity my email address presented to continue his personal attack on me, personally. This is harassment. This is the internet version of a stranger repeatedly calling my house only to tell me how much they dislike me.

I have posted a long time, and in topics far more serious than this one, so I was not a "newbie" to what happens when you add people to the internet. I can be a staunch and forceful critic and I have had my share of unsolicited email haters. I call them stalkers because that is exactly the behavior they are exhibiting. Most of them stop when I point this out. Some, like Michael, do not, and your next choice is to simply block their emails as spam. Michael isn't the first nor will he be the last anti-fan that seethes at the very mention of my name.

So, with that introduction, let's examine Jo Boaler's claims. First off, Boaler should have had a lawyer draft this letter. A lawyer would have not drafted a letter using the same tactics they claim the defendants are using. For example...

"Honest academic debate lies at the core of good scholarship. But what happens when, under the guise of academic freedom, people distort the truth in order to promote their position and discredit someone?s evidence?"

As far as I know, Bishop's and Milgram's view is that Boaler distorted the truth. This part of her claim looks like: You distorted the truth, no you did!, no, you did! The best way to win over critics, or at least to prove them wrong, is to prove your results again and again and again. Unfortunately, education research is very different than scientific research (which uses the again and again and again method). In education research you do a single NSF study and then immediately try to sell it. Now we have dozens of NSF sponsored success stories, being sold to schools, all doing it a different way. It reminds me of the proliferation of 411 scams. If it wasn't for the Bishop's, Milgram's and thousands of frustrated parents, who would provide the necessary critical review of NSF sponsored studies? As far as I can tell, within the NSF sponsored community, and the schools of education, there is no peer review. It seems to be an unwritten rule that education researchers do not criticize each other. Jo Boaler seems to be pinning her hopes in this letter on that rule.

I am going to skip the rest of the "he said she said" elements of this letter and get on to the harassment...

"Between 1999 and 2003 Bishop posted on mathematics education websites that I had invented the schools in my studies. He asserted that ?The schools exist only in her mind.? At the time, his candid comments in some web-based discussions with his perceived allies disclosed the motivation behind his efforts to damage my reputation and discredit my work. He wrote that I was ?the worst possible scenario ? a researcher in a top university with data?.

If anything, this would be libel, not harassment, and judging from the context, it would seem that Bishop was clearly stating opinion, not fact. Also, how can you discredit a researcher's work and not damage their reputation? If Bishop or Milgram had published this letter falsely, in Boaler's name, that would be a malicious act with the purpose of damaging Boaler's reputation.

"In 2005 preliminary results of my NSF research were published, again showing that students who are more actively involved in mathematics achieve at higher levels."

Adding "NSF" to "research" makes it less believable. That has nothing to do with this case, but since Boaler thought it a point worth mentioning, I thought it a point worth mentioning.

"In 2006 Milgram claimed that I had engaged in scientific misconduct. This is an allegation that could have destroyed my career had it been substantiated. Stanford formed a committee to assess Milgram?s allegations. After reviewing all of my NSF research data, Stanford found that Milgram?s allegations of scientific misconduct were unfounded and terminated the investigation."

Again, libel, not harassment. I suppose you could make the claim that the libel was used to harass, but the libel would be more serious than the harassment. In any event, to prove harassment by libel, you would have to prove libel. Is this the whole story? I would think a professor libeling another professor would be serious. Did Milgram state Boaler's misconduct "as fact" or did he express concerns about her research that a university (rightly so) would have to investigate? Did Milgram do this maliciously or with authentic concern?

"Milgram was informed that there would be no formal investigation of scientific misconduct as the Stanford inquiry found his allegations of scientific misconduct to be without merit. Having failed to convince Stanford, Milgram went public with his damaging allegations."

Again, this would be libel before it would be harassment. If Boaler does not have a case for libel then Boaler has simply proved that Milgram does not believe in her research. This is the same principle that protects Boaler from libel, she isn't making any claim, other than Bishop and Milgram don't buy her research methods or results.

"Milgram and Bishop attempted aggressively to identify my research subjects ? schools and students that had been promised confidentiality for their protection, consistent with fundamental research study principles. Identifying human research subjects is contrary to university policy and federal law. Yet Bishop contacted numerous school district officials, including principals, and pressured them to disclose whether they were subjects of my study. Among other tactics, he threatened to take legal action against them. Two of the people concerned contacted Stanford University and sent details of Bishop?s communication with them. In letters to Stanford they stated that Bishop had been ?unprofessional, demanding, condescending, dishonest? and ?verbally aggressive?.

"In 2006 Milgram and Bishop posted a ?paper? on Milgram?s website in which they claimed that they had identified the schools in my study. They specifically asserted that they ?were able to determine the identities of these schools?. The ?paper? presented information from which schools, teachers and students in my study could easily be identified. The ?paper? went on to attack the schools and students, (eg ?The Railside students show that they do not have a good understanding of mathematics?). The ?paper? also attacked my integrity as a researcher, claiming for example, that different populations of students were studied at the different schools ? a false assertion at the core of the allegations of scientific misconduct that Stanford found to be baseless."

I am going to end this analysis with this point. The paper that Boaler refers to is not on "Milgram's website", as she claims. It is on Stanford's website...

Boaler doesn't seem to show much fondness for important details in this letter. Boaler practically accuses Milgram of libel, even to imply that Stanford agrees with her. Yet, here the paper sits, on Stanford's website.

I make this point because her claims in this letter imply libel yet there appears to be no libel, and she does not explicitly claim libel. Therefore, this is criticism, and criticism is not harassment. Burber probably knows this and in her frustration she tries to make a case for harassment by implying a case for libel (she is trying to make criticism look like more than just criticism). A lawyer would have made a case for harassment by making a case for harassment. The only point in this whole letter that could lead to a case for harassment is where Milgram went beyond criticizing her research and purportedly contacted the department hiring her. Unfortunately, Boaler lacks a fondness for details and provides none. Being that Milgram and the department are part of Stanford (from my understanding) I seriously doubt that Milgram relaying his concerns to another department would be construed as harassment.

I repeat what I said earlier, as a researcher, Boaler's response to criticism should simply be more proof. That is how science works. I am also particularly concerned that she invoked the "bully" card.

Bob Hansen

On Oct 13, 2012, at 6:29 AM, Michael Paul Goldenberg <> wrote:

> When Academic Disagreement Becomes Harassment and Persecution.
> by Dr Jo Boaler<Jo-Boaler-reveals-attacks-by-Milgram-and-Bishop.pdf>