Compelling Speech and Behavior at a Math and Science School

Identity politics and its trusted handmaiden of DEI continue to lay siege to our institutions, this time capturing an elite math/science high school.

Students at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA) staged a sit-in protest on December 8th, complaining that their preferred pronouns weren’t being used, and demanded that harsh punishments like detentions, suspensions, expulsions and the removal of leadership positions be enacted for those who commit offenses. Not only that, but an “offending” student’s future school choice may be affected as the IMSA protesters demanded that “potential future colleges” be notified.  Consequences are also extended to staff and faculty after the completion and assessment of a biased incident report.

The latest above is merely the continuation of the leftists’ march through the institutions, which began half a century ago. We’ve seen this gradually take place in one form or another, in federal bureaucracy, big corporations, universities, and even K-12 schools.

Naturally, the appalling drive to destroy the pillars of western civilization in education is, of course, disturbing anywhere it is found.  But I am astonished by the striking irony between the mindset of these activists and the scientific discipline they supposedly inhabit by virtue of being students in this academy.

Science, properly understood and practiced, is a reality-driven enterprise.  It seeks to advance knowledge by inquiring into the fundamental workings of nature.  It requires an objective mindset with the autonomy of thought that can construct hypotheses, dialectically elaborate consequences, test ideas, recalibrate them, if necessary, and proceed to repeat, analyze, dispute, share, and engage in peer-review, to name a few.  What doesn’t help is to have the mindset of arrested thought—limited and disabled with fearful reactions grounded in unthinking sentimentality far removed from reality—as is the case with these individuals.

The universal language of science employs, in no small part, the language of mathematics and the logical consistency contained therein.  Generally, its use includes the identification and analysis of the structure, order and relation of things, as the international language of mathematics transcends the mundane and parochial.  Its universality and transcendence beyond grievance-related matters contributes to its vitality.

It doesn’t help to have a mindset that is sectarian, inwardly pre-occupied, and suspicious enough to obsess over being called a “they” or “them” or whatever new demand of theirs lies outside of reality and conventional speech.  How can anyone diligently engage in genuine discovery and development while compelling others to call you by a name inconsistent with the world everyone inhabits?  A world about which these students supposedly wish to learn!  Such obsessions can easily interfere with the process of scientific analysis if the language or even the object of study is found to be “microaggressive.”  Indeed, we have already heard that math itself is “racist.”

The behavior of these IMSA students is clearly narcissistic.  They are obsessed with self-rating, and suspicion and penalties for others regardless of the consequences for the object of their hatred.  They wish to force a belief onto those who may not share their delusions and are prepared to institutionalize a means to effectively cancel them, thereby ruining their professional future.  That goes for students and adults.  This imposition of penalties runs contrary to the expected practice of rational discussion and debate which are hallmarks of the scientific enterprise (Fauci, Climate Alarmists and other abusers of science notwithstanding).

Ironic, also, that these students of the left attempt to pass these actions as somehow caring and virtuous when, in fact, they are fiercely judgmental and vicious. Such hostility and vindictiveness are borne out by the evidence of what they insist is to be done to those who do not comply.  And there seems to be no limit to their disturbed identity-confections or punishments they will demand as instructed by the lords of the left.  Oh, they’ll make great surgeons, engineers and technologists, won’t they?

Of course, it is possible to be a decent math/science student and pass tests (if they even continue that tradition).  But, it seems to me that the mindset of such students will most likely not do well in the long-run, should they pursue the discipline earnestly.  They are already exhibiting the magical thinking and emotion-driven, self-obsessed mentality that will kill a healthy, inquisitive mind.  And obliging schools that are reducing merit-based qualifications—whether high school or university—will likely suffer a reduction of the quality of applicants who choose to pursue truth and knowledge vigorously, and utilize color-blind neutral principles that transcend socio-cultural particulars.  Would you trust a woke graduate surgeon or pilot, assuming the student would make it to that point?  I wouldn’t.

The war on language and math/science education is a war on reality.  And it appears that the enterprise of educating those with an interest in a discipline traditionally grounded in reason and evidence is gradually being replaced by emotional distress, resentment, and, as Heather Mac Donald has argued, by “obsessions with gonads and melanin as the defining features of a human being.”

As the fight to regain our institutions continues (here and here), perhaps these externally controlled IMSA student activists will someday learn a little rational-emotive wisdom from Epictetus, the Stoic philosopher: “Let go of that which is beyond your control. And understand that others are not responsible for your reactions. You are.

Victor Fernandez is a former Logic/Philosophy of Science adjunct and retired math teacher.

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