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                   October 23, 1997

TO: Richard W. Riley, US Secretary of Education
FR: Kirby Urner, 4D Solutions
RE: Pro-mathematics action, requesting your 
    Department's support

Dear Sir --

I have just been browsing your letter of October 20, 1997, in 
the context of a white paper on the importance of taking 
rigorous courses in mathematics if hoping to pass through the 
gateway to greater freedoms and opportunities.[1][2]

As a curriculum writer in Oregon state with a longstanding 
interest in mathematics (I've taught at the high school level, 
and served as a contributing editor for McGraw-Hill), I want to 
call your attention to our national campaign to overcome 
student apathy and distaste around this important subject.

I don't know if you have, or had a teenager (my step-teen is a 
college freshman this year), but you probably know in any case 
that part of what it means to be young is to question 
authority, to ask oneself whether the adults really have it all 
together, or are just pretending at some level, given how 
messed up the world really seems to be.

In order to focus this natural and healthy rebelliousness into 
positive channels, various school activities come into play 
(e.g. football), short of outright disciplinary action or 
expulsion, which of course we strive to avoid.

The school activity I'm brainstorming, with assistance from 
some professional organizers more skilled in these matters than 
I, is a "National Walk Out of Math Class Day" (we might come up 
with a better name for it soon).  Web pages should be popping 
up before too long whereon various businesses and other 
organizations, as well as individuals, register their support 
and encouragement for this highly choreographed display of 
civil disobedience, aimed at drawing attention to the neglected 
and sorry state of our current USA mathematics curriculum.

The purpose of this memo is to request the official support of 
the US Department of Education for our action -- a USA Medal of 
Freedom went to the chief mathematical genius in our midst and 
although he has since passed away, we still think our nation 
should keep his service, e.g. his contributions to mathematics, 
in mind.[3] The Department of Education is ideally positioned 
to prepare our citizens for life 'Beyond Flatland' i.e. for a 
newly remodeled and highly accessible gateway into the domain 
of spatial geometry, complete with interesting new thinking in 

We could couple this campaign to some press concerning the long 
and venerable history of civil disobedience in achieving 
positive gains for Americans in all walks of life, from the 
civil rights movement to labor relations -- I'm sure I don't 
need to tell you about these gains, but many of the younger set 
have no direct experience with social change work.  Here, in 
the Mathematics Department, we have a chance to turn this 

I have recently sent a memo to Ivars Peterson, a respected 
author and mathematics teacher, and frequent contributor to the 
Mathematics Association of America website, about perhaps 
securing MAA support for our campaign.[5]  That would leave the 
NCMT as a key organization from which we'd like to attract 
support.  I wrote the NCMT a memo in February about the math 
curriculum upgrades we're seeking to implement by 1999 and 
trust a lot of NCMT folks are already on board, at least in 

Thank you for giving this matter your attention.  Along the 
lines of the highly successful 'Blue Ribbon' freedom of speech 
campaign, we plan to make signature iconography available from 
a central repository, for copying and displaying on web pages 
registering support for this action.  If you or some webmaster 
in your office would like the URL for this repository once it 
exists, with an eye towards joining us in support of improving 
the mathematics curriculum in the USA, please send an email or 
snailmail to my address below.[7]

Again, thanks for all your hard work.  I feel we're turning 
the corner on making Mathematics once again the exciting and
interesting subject we all know it could be.

Kirby Urner

PS:  I'm archiving this memo to you at my website so that we 
have a clear record of support requests in connection with this 
campaign. I want kids to know that we're into seriously 
networking with all the relevant agencies, both governmental 
and NGOs.  The action itself is planned for next spring.[8]

[1] http://www.ed.gov/pubs/math/part1.html
[2] "Mathematics Equals Opportunity" 
    White Paper prepared for 
    U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W.Riley 
    October 20, 1997, http://www.ed.gov/pubs/math/
[3] http://www.teleport.com/~pdx4d/index.html
[4] http://www.teleport.com/~pdx4d/quadrays.html
[5] http://www.teleport.com/~pdx4d/ipmemo.html
[6] http://www.teleport.com/~pdx4d/ncmtmemo.html
[7] http://www.teleport.com/~pdx4d/
[8] http://www.teleport.com/~pdx4d/usdepted.html

Subsequent communications:

Synergetics on the Web
maintained by Kirby Urner