If Maths had been like this I may have been interested…

09 Nov

Dear me, there is a nasty left-wing plot brewing in the world of Mathematics of all places, according to Devine pater in today’s Australian.

The square route to hell is paved with good intentions

WATCH out for radical maths, which may be coming to a school near you. Also known as “social justice maths”, it is a teaching theory, gaining momentum in the US, which seeks to use mathematics as a form of instruction in social justice issues.

For example, in studying fractions, a student might be asked to “compare how money spent on military operations could be used to support other important causes (for example, if a bomb costs $10 million and it costs $10,000 to provide health care for an entire family for a year, how many families could get health care for the cost of this bomb?).”

To understand averages, “take data for US casualties in Iraq for the past 12 months and calculate a monthly average from the perspective of a military recruiter and an anti-war activist”.

In case this last example causes mathematicians to advance from white knuckles to chest pains, I should reveal that both examples are drawn from the most radical end of radical maths.

Specifically, they come from the syllabus of El Puente (The Bridge) Academy for Peace and Justice, an accredited public high school in Brooklyn, New York, whose teachers are called “facilitators”. El Puente is the throbbing pulse of the social justice maths movement.

Last May, one of its facilitators, Jonathan Osler, who is also founder of the blog, arranged a conference called “Creating balance in an unjust world: math education and social justice”. About 400 mathematics educators, including a number of university professors, attended it. New York magazine pointedly headed its report on the conference, “Weighting for Lefty”.

Radical maths hasn’t yet taken root, so to speak (this is an insider joke with which I hope to curry favour for my views with orthodox mathematicians), in Australian classrooms.

However, a lengthy paper by Jonathan Osler was recently posted on a commonwealth Department of Education search site…

Good heavens, we can’t have REAL questions like that! God knows where it might lead in a democratic society! If, like me, you find the whole idea rather attractive, go to Radical Math and explore further. Thanks to Frank Devine for alerting us all to such a marvellous resource.

Weird but real laws

There was a story circulating when Frank Devine was a boy and I was a teenage Arts student. Apparently, so the story went, a student at an English university discovered an ancient but unrepealed statute that said an examinee had the right to a pint of beer. Testing this mid-exam the student duly got, after much consulting, his pint of beer delivered to the exam room. The next day he was fined for not wearing his sword…

Another story concerned a Sydney student riding a white horse into the foyer of the old Hotel Australia and demanding it be fed and watered, citing a statute that said all inns and hostelries had to do this for their horse-riding customers…

In such a spirit is Loony law lies dead on the floor also in today’s Oz.

LONDON: Queen Elizabeth II’s speech in the British parliament this week may have been routine but at least nobody got bored to death. That would have been against the law.

Dying in parliament is an offence and is also by far the most absurd law in Britain, according to a survey of nearly 4000 people.

And though the lords were clad in their red and white ermine cloaks and ambassadors from around the world wore colourful national costumes, at least nobody turned up in a suit of armour. Illegal.

Other rules deemed utterly stupid included one that permits a pregnant woman to urinate in a policeman’s hat – and in the city of York it is legal to murder a Scotsman within the ancient city walls, but only if he is carrying a bow and arrow.

A law stating that in Liverpool, only a clerk in a tropical fish store was allowed to be publicly topless was also ridiculous.

Nearly half of those surveyed admitted to breaking the ban on eating mince pies on Christmas Day, which dates back to the 17th century and was originally designed to outlaw gluttony during the rule of the Puritan Oliver Cromwell.

The laws and other regulations were culled from published research into ancient legislation that has never been repealed, although subsequent statutes have rendered them obsolete.

It is an act of treason to place a postage stamp bearing the British monarch upside-down.

In Scotland, if someone knocks on your door and requires the use of your toilet, you must let them enter.

The head of any dead whale found on the British coast automatically becomes the property of the king, and the tail of the queen.

It is illegal to avoid telling the tax man anything you do not want him to know, but legal not to tell him information you do not mind him knowing.

Love it! Anyone know more examples?

S-W Sydney is much more exciting than Surry Hills

Or so it seems, judging from Thomas’s neighbourhood. Mind you, this is an old Aussie tradition. I couldn’t help recalling the old convict days — not from personal experience, you understand:

…The arrival of the First Fleet women convicts at Botany Bay was the prelude to a spectacle of utter degradation and licentiousness the like of which has no equal in the foundation of a British colony. ‘Surgeon Bowes has recorded in his unpublished Journal that ‘The men got to them (the women) very soon after their landing, and the scene of debauchery and riot that ensued during the night may be better conceived than expressed, particularly when I say that within one hour of their landing – before they could adjust their tents in order for sleeping in them – there came on the most violent storm of lightning and rain I ever saw’. A more lurid description of the orgies and depravity of the convicts of both sexes which he witnessed on that same evening is contained in Lieutenant Ralph Clark’s writings to his wife, Betty, in England…

…What did the prisoners find when they disembarked? No means were available for them to continue their moral regeneration. There must have been many among them who dreamed of starting a new life in a land of peace. Any such vision would have been shattered as they neared the landing place. Reckless, swearing men, and wanton-looking., ragged, foul-mouthed women, were then saluting their approach. The reeking smell from rum shanties met them on their walk to the temporary shelter at the jail, where they were to be lodged for the night. No clergyman was there to receive them.

How the night was passed is told by a Dr. Reed: ‘On visiting the gaol in Sydney, the morning after the women prisoners had been landed, I found that many of them spent the night in noise and indecent revelry, occasioned by beer and spirits which had been introduced, and that could not have been done without the knowledge of their keepers. he next day the women were conducted to the female factory at Parramatta. They were taken in small boats rowed by convict constables. The fifteen miles’ journey often took eight to ten hours, and the helpless women were exposed to brutal treatment and licentiousness on the part of their warders, who made no bones about forcing their attentions on them. In his report tabled before the British House of Commons, Commissioner J. T. Bigge stated: ‘In their passage from Sydney, great irregularities take place; the women frequently arrive at Parramatta in a state of intoxication, after being plundered of such property as they had brought from the ship with them’. Commenting on their arrival at the factory, he reported: ‘The insufficient accommodation that is afforded to those females who might be well disposed, presented an early excitement, if not an excuse, for their resort to indiscriminate prostitution; and on the night of their arrival at Parramatta, those who were not deploring their state of abandonment were “traversing the streets”.’ …

No doubt a euphemism, that last phrase.

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Posted by on November 9, 2007 in Aussie interest, Diversions, Education, Observations, Weird


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