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RE: math for reproduction and domination

This was a battle that occurred in this country long before Bowles and Gintis started talking about it.  It was basically how do you teach social studies, as a separate subject (as a matter of fact as one of a number of defined subjects) or as part of an overall strategy (where mathematics is integrated through application in socially relevant situations).  Interestingly enough in the early presidential boards that met to discuss the direction that public education would take there was emphasis on the latter, at least that were the plans for actions that emanated from these boards (I'm talking back in the 1920s here).  Unfortunately even though those who wanted social relationship integrated throughout the curriculum won the battle but lost the war.  Interestingly enough the person who championed the formed, a separate social studies because he believed in a quantitative social sciences, later came to regret this (at least his biographer said so).  In spite of these early presidential boards disciplines came to be narrowly defined and carefully circumscribed so that mathematics is taught completely separately from social studies.  There are some who argue that the reason for this was primarily economic, that it was simply more efficient to go in this direction.  While this is certainly true it is way too easy and gives too much of a pass to too many people (including many of the "heroes" of our field - you'll notice that disciplines in academia have become more narrowly defined and circumscribed - and I would argue in the case of social issues for no good pragmatic reason).  There were a lot of conservative politics driving this, including the eugenics movement which wanted to be able to measure specific capabilities devoid of any type of transactional analysis.  We are still dealing with this with the No Child Left Behind disaster (all right, personal opinion).
The creation of separate disciplines has become so dominant we don't even remember that the other side commanded the field in U.S. public education policy (for a very short while), and we have to tell people to go take a course in Marxism economics at UMass.  Too bad for us.


From: Bill Barowy [mailto:xmcageek@comcast.net]
Sent: Thu 11/11/2004 10:43 AM
To: xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
Subject: math for reproduction and domination

On Thursday 11 November 2004 10:22 am, Wolff-Michael Roth wrote:

> I was struck that in the entire discussion, there was no cultural
> historical analysis of the situation in which children do these
> mathematical things not because they are (considered) useful and its
> outcomes have any relevance to anything but to the reproduction of a
> society, where, as in the US, 15 to 20 percent of the population live
> in poverty, and where education is used to systematically exclude parts
> of the population to share in the wealth that is collectively produced.

I don't think such an analysis is necessay, Michael.  I think it's obvious and
publications from such people as Bowles and Gintis hammer that point home. 
In first grade, this kind of thinking is a long ways off.  I'm not even sure
it's something one could do consistently in high school.  But if a student
takes a course in marxist economics at Umass Amherst, or any other univeristy
for that matter, that point will be well addressed.