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Thursday, June 21, 2018

New textbook claims learning math causes ‘harm’ to students | Campus Reform

In a chapter for a new textbook, University of Exeter professor Paul Ernest warns that mathematics education can cause "collateral damage" to society by training students in "ethics-free thought."  

He even argues that since money involves mathematics, math is "implicated in the global disparities of wealth" because math students are taught to value "detached" and "calculative" reasoning.

Toni Airaksinen, New York Campus Correspondent writes, "A professor at the University of Exeter claims in a new textbook that learning mathematics can cause “collateral damage” to society by training students in "ethics-free thought."" 

Photo: Campus Reform

“The Ethics of Mathematics: Is Mathematics Harmful” was written by University of Exeter Professor Paul Ernest, and published as a chapter in a 2018 textbook he edited called The Philosophy of Mathematics Education Today. 

Despite the myriad benefits math offers to society—such as increased scientific knowledge and improved healthcare, allowing us to live longer and happier lives—Ernest warns of three ways mathematics education causes “collateral damage” to society. 

First, Ernest asserts that “the nature of pure of mathematics itself leads to styles of thinking that can be damaging when applied beyond mathematics to social and human issues,” since math facilitates “detached” and “calculative” reasoning.

“Reasoning without meanings provides a training in ethics-free thought,” he writes, fretting that this “masculine” paradigm “valorises rules, abstraction, objectification, impersonality, unfeelingness, dispassionate reason, and analysis.” 

Second, he argues that the “applications of mathematics in society can be deleterious to our humanity unless very carefully monitored and checked,” worrying particularly about how math facilitates transactions of money and finance. 

“Money and thus mathematics is the tool for the distribution of wealth,” he states. “It can therefore be argued that as the key underpinning conceptual tool mathematics is implicated in the global disparities in wealth.”

Finally, Ernest worries of the personal impact math has on “less-successful students,” especially women, since math is often perceived as a “masculine” and “difficult” subject. 
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Source: Campus Reform

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