S9 dropped the other editors a quaint line the other day to perhaps join him in a debate that sprung up on a site where he had successfully captured some Hoover Institute troll decrying some new Math education pedagogy called Everyday Math, or EdM for short.
Now, first, a heartfelt aplogy to S9, that by the time I got there, the conversation had gotten into the deep weeds, and sadly, Edu-Policy is one of those areas I am least qualified to jump into middle of a fray, pick up a Chair-Leg-of-Truth and start swinging.
However, S9 did manage to score a knock out on me by ruminating on the idea proposed by some of these right wing asshat clones that students and professors should be armed in class saying how it would make for more entertaining thesis defense... you owe me most of a cup of coffee, dude.
Sorry, I am taking a long time to get around to the point. At one point in the conversation, this guy who claimed to be some pissant water carrier bench player for Hoover started to trot out some of the traditional conservative code about educational materials they don't like.
Well, lately, I've gained a new appreciation for the application of this code in a pan cultural context, especially in the post Dover ID decision era. Yeah... I know, I am rambling, and I apologize for that. Much of this is not fully formed for me yet, so I am still kind of feeling my way through it.
Anyway, the conversation went something like this...
Hoover Drone: Well, all this EdM math stuff strikes me as being the kind of "top down" ideas that failed in the 60s; a "brew of progressivism..." Kids do not achieve mastery of core knowledge this way...I suspect that S9 knows perfectly well what these choads fear, he just wanted this guy to come out and say it.
S9: Progressivism... the horror... the horror... and what the hell does down "top down" mean anyway, and by the way, they are achieving mastery of core knowledge as previously enumerated, so what is it you really fear...
For those who don't know where I am going, I will try to shorthand it for you. This guy doesn't give a wet slap about kids learning math or not. It's all about the method, and the cultural currency it creates.
You see, EdM would appear to put some stock in the idea of exploration as a learning tool, and questioning and reasoning, as opposed to the older style of rote memorization.
This is -- no doubt -- a grotesque oversimplification, but for our purposes here it will do.
You see, the objection is not with what is taught, but how. The conservative cultural movement's opposition to modern science in general relies on simple rote memorization and acceptance of dogma.
Any teaching style that threatens to liberate the minds of children, to get them to explore and question that which is taught them is an anathema to the movement as a whole. This is part of a grander cultural critique that informs their opposition to everything from gay marriage to abortion rights to pushing Christian prayer in school and the Genesis Creation story taught as literal cosmology.
These are not simply sub-heads under a grander umbrella of "Culture War," these are intrinsically intertwined in a way we do not appreciate, but that conservatives have used very effectively in their politics.
Remember, much of their bloviation is about getting to make sense to their own flock, and not so much about converting "the other." Because, we all know what happens to "others" in the end... So this is about keeping their own people on board.
On the surface, the concept that "progressivism" seeping into math education should cause such wailing weeping and gnashing of teeth seems ridiculous and mock worthy. And it is...
But moreover, they are showing the weak points in the armor when they telegraph like that. They fear any education pedagogy that relies too much on letting student reason shit out for themselves, with guidance from teachers. Because modern scientific reasoning is the enemy of Religious Right.
Why? Because it threatens to disable their primary argument for complete cultural hegemony... the Bible is not only the literal word of God, but the literal history of the Universe. As such, it is infallible and can not be subject to any questioning or criticism.
Go to the Discovery Institute web site, and they are very up front about what it is they want to do. They are trying to create a theistic monoculture, and that to do so, they must first find a way to defeat what they believe is Scientific Materialism... because at some point their version of science boils down to "The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it!"
Without it, the movement crumbles. We have not incorporated this into our opposition politics yet. It is time we do so... They have a much better grasp of the cultural battlefield than we do, we need to correct that, and quickly, or we can count on more Proposition 8s, more school districts ditching Darwin, more post-intellectualism finding it's way into the culture.
Again, pardon for the rambling and that these ideas are still not fully thought out or formed, but were getting there...