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Maths + wokery = total codswallop


AS I confessed in these pages a while back, I’m useless at maths – anything above simple adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing is way beyond me. 

However, even as a duffer to whom a digital calculator means his fingers, I was surprised to see maths being sucked into the race-gender-wokery maelstrom, with Durham University reportedly trying to ‘decolonise’ the subject.

A guide issued to lecturers apparently says that if mathematicians whose works are being studied are ‘almost completely (or even completely) white and/or male, ask yourself why they are. See if you can find contributions to the field from mathematicians of other genders/ethnicities’.   

The university says decolonising the curriculum ‘means considering the cultural origins of the mathematical concepts, focuses, and notation we most commonly use’. Lecturers are asked to ‘consider whether you can present the context outside of a Western frame of reference’. 

With the wokeful state of our so-called seats of learning these days, you might think such a dotty diktat related to, say, English or history. But what the heck has race or gender got to do with mathematics, which is surely a neutral, ‘colour-blind’ subject?  

In general, isn’t maths based on objective, logical sets of rules to try to explain the physical and natural world – a world where 2 + 2 = 4 whether you’re black, white, brown, yellow, sky blue pink, male, female or any of the alphabetic gender constructs? 

Even if a person from an ethnic minority compiled a brilliant new mathematical formula or concept, surely its origin would be irrelevant to its application. 

Put it this way: If a spanner fits the nut you’re trying to undo, you don’t consider where, how or by whom the spanner was made (although you might admire the workmanship), you just use it to get the job done.  

And no mathematician or scientist’s first thought as he or she delves into the complexity of e=mc2, relativity, time dilation, etc, is likely to be: ‘Oh, a middle-class, moustachioed, white European male thought this up.’  

As I said, I’m no expert. However, what I do know is that these days anything and everything can be hijacked – dare I say colonised – by anyone with a politically correct, woke, virtue-signalling, mischievous or simply idiotic agenda. And now it’s the turn of maths.  

So, after decolonisation, what’s next in the world of algebra, equations, calculus, statistics, geometry, logarithms, etc? Perhaps the launch of a Maths Liberation Front – one of whose tasks would be freeing arithmetic from the shackles of our outdated, restrictive thought processes.  

I mean, we traditionalists may think 2 + 2 = 4. But surely numbers should be allowed to choose their own attributes and characteristics. And who is to say that 2 + 2 doesn’t self-identify as equalling 5? 

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Henry Getley
Henry Getley
Henry Getley is a freelance journalist.

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