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Topic: Labels
Replies: 15   Last Post: Oct 22, 2009 12:07 AM

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Anne Watson

Posts: 12
Registered: 4/28/09
Re: Human decency
Posted: Oct 21, 2009 1:40 PM
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To all

Human decency acted in the form of my junkmail filter, which had assigned the offensive message to my junk, so I had not seen it.

Had I seen it I might have replied in some form, but I am afraid that remarks like that tend to keep me quiet as they remind me of school, and I am no longer a teacher.

I taught in school for many years, and the issues Tony raises were constant issues for me and have been so since. We don't solve these arguments by pretending that mathematics is less demanding than it is, or by dumbing down the standards of mathematical rigour to which learners need to aspire, nor by squabbling about whether teachers CAN help students to reach these or not. The bald truth in UK is that by and large they DON'T do this, whether they can or not, because of the system which has been designed for political and marketplace purposes and not for educational purposes. The rescue task is huge because meanwhile a whole generation of maths graduates have arrived as teachers who have no personal experience of geometrical thinking. So they do not have the background experience to make choices about, for example, whether to label, how and when to label, why to label etc. There are even some who confuse letter labels on diagrams with codes, or with algebraic uses. In addition it is not surprising that they may believe their students to be unable to reason appropriately. I have not had time to read everyone's messages, particularly those in the junkmail, but this last observation is why I am tough about ensuring there is a need to label - i.e. offering confusion that has to be sorted out.


-----Original Message-----
From: Post-calculus mathematics education [mailto:MATHEDU@JISCMAIL.AC.UK] On Behalf Of TONY GARDINER
Sent: 21 October 2009 17:07
Subject: Human decency

> Rosenhouse points out [...]
> 'an occupational hazard among mathematicians [is]
> the desire always to be the smartest person in the room...'
> I might have said "the confidence that one is the smartest person
> in the room."
> Tony Gardiner is susceptible to this hazard to a remarkable degree.

I have waited 5 days to see whether anyone on this list has the human
decency or the intellectual courage to repudiate the above kind of ad
hominem rubbish.

I have had not one such message.
I leave others to decide for themselves what this tells us.

I suspect I have never met the writer.

Whilst it is irrelevant to the import of this message, I should
perhaps for the sake of truth assure the writer (and anyone else who
cares) that he could not be more wrong: progress depends on the
interaction between those unlikely twins - truth and humility
(including self-criticism).

I waited - but certainly not in hope that anyone would *disagree*
with the writer. We are all free to make such judgements; and any
teacher is bound to recognise the confusion which afflicts those
(even among "professors emeriti") whose pet assumptions are
Rather I waited to see whether other members of MATHEDU understand
that, a list in which such opinions are allowed in place of reason -
without immediate comment and retraction - is beyond redemption.

Our theme is profoundly important.
But we have brought it into total disrepute - not so much through the
original ad hominem nonsense (every community has its delinquents),
but by our subsequent silence.

Sadly yours

Tony Gardiner

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