Decolonizing the mathematical curriculum means considering the cultural origins of the mathematical concepts, focusses, and notation we most commonly use.
From the outlet:
Scholars…have been urged to reconsider how “the power of 10, represented by the word ‘billion,’ differs from country to country” and how Brahmagupta, the famed Indian mathematician, assigned a different meaning to the value of zero.
Instructors are informed that “the question of whether we have allowed Western mathematicians to dominate in our discipline is no less relevant than whether we have allowed Western authors to dominate the field of literature.”
“It may even be more important,” the manual makes clear, “if only because mathematics is rather more central to the advancement of science than is literature.”
And what if an educator is citing an expert who’s particularly pale? Second thoughts are suggested:
Staff are urged to consider giving short biographies of the mathematicians whose work they present in their modules and are encouraged to question themselves if they choose predominantly “white and/or male” figures.
If the mathematicians are “almost entirely (or even completely) white and/or male, ask yourself why this is,” the guide states.
Teachers are also told to “consider whether [they] can present the context outside of a Western frame of reference.”
Faculty are offered the instance of Simpson’s paradox. It’s often illustrated via Titanic survivors and American college enrollment. But Durham recommends using the “underrepresentation of Maori in New Zealand jury pools,” which “decenters Europe.”
Speaking to The Telegraph, Exeter University social sciences Professor Doug Stokes lays out the revision’s virtue:
“The idea behind decolonizing maths is that because everyone should be regarded as equal, the status of their beliefs must also be equal. This judgmental relativism is an inversion of science that is based on what is real rather than making everybody feel included.”
Not long ago, decolonization wasn’t deemed necessary. Everything appeared to be going gregariously thanks to an increasingly colorblind culture. Then suddenly, we were informed we’re either evil oppressors or tragic victims unable to societally succeed. Therefore, the system must be upended in the name of non-negotiable equity.
At Durham University, they’re colossally cleaning house:
Like most British universities, many departments at Durham have established decolonising panels. Durham University Business School has said that by 2022/23, no student will be able to complete a degree there “without significant exposure” to decolonization issues.
A college spokesman pointed out:
“The maths curriculum our students learn remains the same, but we also encourage students to be more aware of the global and diverse origins of the subject, and the range of cultural settings that have shaped it. Two plus two will always equal four.”
And math minus white males will likely always equal woke.