Posted on October 27, 2017

Mathematics Is . . . Whiteness: How the Academic Left Parodies Itself

Jack Kerwick, FrontPage Mag, October 27, 2017

If it hadn’t already become obvious, it is now painfully obvious that leftists, particularly the agents of the Racism-Industrial-Complex (RIC), have become a parody of themselves.

The academic left never fails to take the lead in these matters.  A professor of mathematics education at the University of Illinois, Rochelle Gutierrez, has recently claimed in a chapter that she contributed to an anthology designed for mathematics teachers that math is, in effect, “racist.”

To be more precise, math promotes…“Whiteness.”

“On many levels,” Gutierrez writes, “mathematics itself operates as Whiteness.  Who gets credit for doing and developing mathematics, who is capable in mathematics, and who is seen as part of the mathematical community is generally viewed as White.”

She elaborates: “School mathematics curricula, emphasizing terms like Pythagorean theorem and pi perpetuate a perception that mathematics was largely developed by Greeks and other Europeans.”

Moreover, “mathematics operates with unearned privilege in society, just like Whiteness.”

Gutierrez laments that we regard mathematics “as if it is a natural reflection of the universe,” occurring “outside of human influence,” “encoding the universe with eternal truths, a natural order of things that should not be questioned.” Thus, “mathematics is viewed as a version of the world that is proper, separate from humans, where no emotions or agendas take place.”

Mathematics becomes normative, the benchmark of clear thinking, due to “its perceived purity [.]”

Gutierrez maintains that this value-neutral, normative conception of mathematics has had “lasting” and negative “effects” on legions of people who are “not viewed as mathematical” — which is another way of saying that they are not viewed as intelligent.  “So many people,” Gutierrez continues, “have experienced trauma, microaggressions from participating in math classrooms where the idea of being a successful person, being an intelligent person, is removing oneself from the context, not involving emotions, not involving the body, and being judged by whether one can reason abstractly.”

Gutierrez’s point here is that, “whether we recognize it or not, mathematics teaching is a highly political activity.”  This in turn means that “if teachers are unable to deconstruct the deficit messages circulating in society about themselves, their students, or public education,” if they “situate the problem of learning in individual student motivation and ignore broader institutional and systemic inequities,” then “they cannot successfully advocate for policies and practices that are research-based and ethically just.”

Some thoughts:

First, Professor Gutierrez reveals in this essay that she is among the Initiated in contemporary leftism.  It doesn’t take long for those who pay any attention to them to recognize that academic leftists (sadly, a virtual redundancy) have a tendency to trade in jargon of a specific kind, buzz words which suggest, and seem designed to suggest, that their users are members of one and the same secret society of sorts.  Gutierrez espouses several of them in just the few passages that are quoted here: “deconstruct,” “Whiteness,” “privilege,” “institutional and systemic inequities,” and, of course, “microaggressions.”

And, of course, her insistence that all teaching, including and most notably the teaching of mathematics, is political, locates Gutierrez solidly among the Gnostics, distinguishing her as a Fellow Traveler in the eyes of her ideological ilk in the academy.

Second, it is also telling that the lingua franca of the contemporary academy in which Gutierrez has shown herself to be so fluent consists largely of highly abstract nouns.  Ironically, it is precisely those leftists, like Professor Gutierrez, who are forever assuring us of the historically pernicious effects of the “privileged” position to which the West has allegedly elevated abstract thought that resort to abstraction the most.

It is leftists who appear the least interested in attending to any and all details that threaten to upset those of their theories — like the theory that mathematics “operates” as “Whiteness” — that are ideologically serviceable.

The conservative scholar Roger Scruton noted the peculiar characteristics of this esoteric manner of speaking, which he aptly calls “Newspeak.”  “The world of Newspeak [the world as it is envisioned by leftists, especially academic leftists, like Gutierrez] is a world of abstract forces, in which individuals are merely local embodiments of ‘isms’ that are revealed in them; hence, it is a world without [individual human] action.”

This being said, the world of Newspeak is most definitely not a world devoid of “movement. On the contrary, everything is in constant motion, swept onwards by the forces of progress, or impeded by the forces of reaction.  There is no equilibrium, no stasis, [and] no rest in the world of Newspeak.”

The eighteenth century philosopher David Hume too noted the benefits to be reaped from the use of abstract terms: “It is easy for a false hypothesis to maintain some appearance of truth, while it keeps wholly in generals” and “makes use of undefined terms [.]”

He added that “ideas, especially abstract ones, are naturally faint and obscure: the mind has but a slender hold of them…and when we have often employed any term, though without a distinct meaning, we are apt to imagine it has a determinate idea annexed to it.”

In other words, Professor Gutierrez can maintain the ludicrous thesis that “mathematics operates as Whiteness” only because she “keeps” it “wholly in generals,” as Hume says, only because she packages it in terms of the very kinds of abstractions against which she rails.

Finally, while Rochelle Gutierrez, judging from her press in conservative media, has generated quite the stir, her position on the issue of mathematics shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows anything about the academic left.

For example, the now late Iris Marion Young claimed years ago that while it “poses as neutral and universal,” “the ideal of a common humanity in which all can participate without regard to race, gender, religion, or sexuality…allows privileged groups to ignore their own group specificity” and facilitates the “disadvantage” at which “oppressed groups” find themselves.  The problem, as Young saw it, is that the ideals of “formal equality” and “assimilation” obscure group differences that need to be made explicit if “the dominant culture” is to recognize itself “for the first time as specific: as Anglo, European, Christian, masculine, straight [.]”

Only then will patterns that “structure privilege and oppression” cease.

By way of the Newspeak of the left, anything, whether the delivery of mathematics or the ideals of color-blindness, formal opportunity, and assimilation, can be racialized and wielded as an indictment of European or white society.

But what the left either doesn’t recognize or refuses to recognize is that the very ideals on behalf of which they advocate, like Equality, are themselves Eurocentric to the core. The ideas of natural or “human” rights, Democracy, liberalism, progressivism, and so forth are the intellectual artifacts, the inventory, as it were, of a specific civilization: the West.

If Gutierrez and Young and their ilk cared about consistency, they’d be forced to admit that what goes for mathematics and the like goes equally well for everything else.  Racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, and xenophobia, like mathematics, all “operate” to facilitate Whiteness, for such forces are evil only if the Individual — another Eurocentric notion — transcends them. Thus, by promoting the idea that these things are wrong, one, paradoxically, promotes…Whiteness!

This, however, is a conclusion that the agents of the Racism-Industrial-Complex must fight to the death to avoid, for once admitted, they would have to die.