Math Makeover 1998
Background Documentation

This write-up originally archived via Synergetics-L on October 22, 1997. The text is unchanged (i.e. the footnotes were part of the original) but I've added hyperlinks and relevant graphics.

image I got on the agenda at AFSC tonight -- showed up with Tara, my 3 year old, and a friend.

Turns out my clever Chomsky analogy (more suitable for the left leaning I thought -- I'm using Reagan Medal of Freedom winner in my meetings with those slanting right) went over the heads of these high schoolers. I guess Chomsky isn't much read in classrooms around here.[1] Still, they got my point about how a first line of defense against uncomfortable ideas is to brand the source "crackpot" -- but how that doesn't work when the source is culturally certified brilliant, as is true in the Chomsky case (a tenured MIT professor -- they'd all heard of MIT).

imageI made it clear I was presenting as a private citizen, even though a co-clerk of the LAAP committee and long time AFSC person.[2] I told them right at the outset that AFSC did not yet comprehend, let alone approve or endorse the action I was outlining -- part of the purpose of my presentation was to inform staff and youth alike about this engaging possibility. I understood that LAAP youth had already done a lot to fight racism (hosting parties, putting out a literary magazine) and pitched my math walkout plan from that angle.

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My segue from mathematics to anti-racism is on terms.html, where I get into this business of 'No Race, No Class' right under a paragraph on the Fourth Dimension. The idea here is that by staging a walkout from Math class, we're (a) doing something surprising and (b) drawing attention to a suppressed mathematics linked to anti-racist ideas. I had a color printout of terms.html, along with quadcolors.html, for the AFSC's files -- and some handouts left over from my Math Summit workshop for the kids to take home and/or show their teachers at school (I made it clear this action was designed to include as many teachers as allies as we could get -- not an us-against-them generational thing).

Then we got around to the topic of timing again and it finally occured to me I'd better check to make sure May 17 1998 is a weekday. It's a Sunday. Duh. Back to the drawing board on that score. Guess my birthday won't be "M Day" after all.

The meeting was upbeat, with the kids really tuning in and getting my points about racism having no basis in science. I explained that since people aren't dogs, we're not compelled to define them into breeds, that when two people had a kid, there's no "race gene" that magically transmits some "racial substance" such that the kid is either a "mongrel" a "pure specimen" of some kind -- or at least no one should be forced into seeing it this way on the pretense that "science" preaches this as gospel. I had the current Wired with me and pointed to the cover picture of an attractive female, suggesting we might not see any specific "race" in this picture, and that determining her specific "race" was simply a nonissue.[3]

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MaryAnn joked that maybe this meant I could be a Filipino, to which I auto-responded "I am" and proceeded to spout some Tagalog (an old martial law slogan gleaned from television), which got a big laugh and a shocked look from some Filipinos present who were unaware of my background.


[1] I had a copy of his Deterring Democracy in my brief case -- picture of a stealth bomber on the cover.

synergetics:fuller::transformational grammar:chomsky
was the formal notion in the back of my mind here.

[2] Co-clerk, Latin America Asia Pacific committee formerly Contributing Editor, Asian-Pacific Issues News [defunct publication -- KU]

[3] Wired, November, 1997

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