You'll never guess where resistance to woke math is coming from
The push for woke math is getting stronger. Everyone knows about "A Pathway to Equitable Math Instruction," the formal program of the Oregon Department of Education which allows 2 + 2 = 5 because demanding the correct answer is racist and white-supremacist. Some newer ones include eliminating advanced math classes in middle school in the name of equity because they attract a disproportionate percentage of whites and Asians; trauma-informed pedagogy, which takes into account students' difficult lives; and Mathematics Framework for California Public Schools (discussed recently on AT here), approved on July 12 by California's Board of Education and sort of a culmination of much of the above and more: it eliminates letter grades in favor of "standards-based assessments"; it effectively knocks calculus off the high-school curriculum; and it likely will result in an end to California's historical leadership in STEM innovation and harm to the country as a whole. To paraphrase Vladimir Lenin, the capitalists will buy the rope with which they will hang themselves.
An initiative related to the Mathematics Framework and unanimously endorsed by the University of California Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools (BOARS) is to expand the eligible college prep advanced math and related coursework for acceptance to the University of California to include data science courses, nudging out traditional math courses to promote "equity," thereby leaving many students unprepared for STEM fields. What's different this time is that there is a "behind-the-scenes protest" from...professors in the University of California system! They believe that the very students the initiative is intended to help will be left behind. (Shouldn't that apply to 2 + 2 = 5 as well? Just asking.) Of course, other professors are defending the initiative, so the fight has just begun.
Or maybe it's already over. We live in an era of professors being afraid to say anything that doesn't toe the line for fear of it being a career-ender; peer-reviewed math papers being subject to the wrath of the woke mob and rejected by, or even retracted from, prestigious math journals; and mandatory diversity statements:
Faculty at universities across the country are facing an echo of the loyalty oath, a mandatory "Diversity Statement" for job applicants. The professed purpose is to identify candidates who have the skills and experience to advance institutional diversity and equity goals. In reality it's a political test, and it's a political test with teeth.
What are the teeth? Nearly all University of California campuses require that job applicants submit a "contributions to diversity" statement as a part of their application. The campuses evaluate such statements using rubrics, a detailed scoring system. Several UC programs have used these diversity statements to screen out candidates early in the search process.
A typical rubric from UC Berkeley specifies that a statement that "describes only activities that are already the expectation of Berkeley faculty (mentoring, treating all students the same regardless of background, etc)" (italics mine) merits a score of 1–2 out of a possible 5 (1 worst and 5 best) in the second section of the rubric, the "track record for advancing diversity" category.
The diversity "score" is becoming central in the hiring process. Hiring committees are being urged to start the review process by using officially provided rubrics to score the required diversity statements and to eliminate applicants who don't achieve a scoring cut-off.
The math professor who wrote the above, a vice president of the American Mathematical Society, was blasted by colleagues in a subsequent issue of the same math journal for daring to speak out about it.
We all know that universities are bastions of leftist ideology, but how bad is it among math professors specifically? Consider the featured chart on the political party (a proxy for ideology) of full-time, Ph.D.-holding, tenure-track faculty in various fields at top-ranked liberal arts colleges.
For mathematics, the ratio of Democrats to Republicans is 5.6:1, or equivalently, Democrats constitute 5.6/(5.6+1) ≈ 85% of math professors registered as D or R. Some solace can be taken in that mathematics has a lower D:R ratio than most of the other fields in the chart. At the same time, the ratio for mathematics, as well as for the other fields that may factor into this debate, is an indicator of the uphill battle ahead.
W.A. Eliot is a pseudonym.