Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Math and Dr. Seuss are being canceled

Sergiu Klainerman writes:
In my position as a professor of mathematics at Princeton, I have witnessed the decline of universities and cultural institutions as they have embraced political ideology at the expense of rigorous scholarship. Until recently — this past summer, really — I had naively thought that the STEM disciplines would be spared from this ideological takeover.

I was wrong. Attempts to “deconstruct” mathematics, deny its objectivity, accuse it of racial bias, and infuse it with political ideology have become more and more common — perhaps, even, at your child’s elementary school.

This phenomenon is part of what has been dubbed “The Great Awokening.” As others have explained powerfully, the ideology incubated in academia, where it indoctrinated plenty of bright minds. It then migrated, through those true believers, into our important cultural, religious and political institutions. Now it is affecting some of the country’s most prominent businesses.

He is right. Math is not immune. We have not yet seen the limits of what will be deconstructed.
For historical reasons, we often discuss contributions to the field of mathematics from the Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, Chinese, Indians and Arabs and refer to them as distinct entities. They have all contributed through a unique cultural dialogue to the creation of a truly magnificent edifice accessible today to every man and woman on the planet.
He is right, but I think he misses the point. A lot of fields have drawn on contributions from many sources. What we call Western Civilization has taken ideas, science, technology, and values from Romans, Greeks, Medieval Europeans, Egyptians, and many others.

For various reasons, Western Civilization is a target. Today's news is that Dr. Seuss is being canceled. Explaining that his works were fairly enlightened, and appreciated by many, does no good. His excellent children's books must be banned anyway.

(I once had an office down the hall from Klainerman, but I had no direct dealings with him.)

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