Friday, June 8, 2007

Announcing the Rational Mathematics Education blog

The time has come, the Walrus said, to get to the bottom of the idiocy that passes for analysis of mathematics education in the United States and elsewhere. The 'Net is flooded with videos, blogs, and what I view as hate lists and web sites all attacking progressive reform methods, tools, technologies, pedagogies and, most especially, text books in mathematics (although the onslaught against progressive science education is on its way, and the current focus on mathematics education reform was preceded by the still on-going war against "whole language" and related ideas in literacy education.

This blog has been created to provide direct replies to entries on other blogs where the blogger invites feedback but refuses to post negative responses, critical comments, uncomfortable questions, etc., of ANY kind, regardless of how polite they may be. What do such people fear, I wonder? That their lies, distortions, misinformation, and conscious disinformation will be put under the harsh spotlight of reality? That their perversions and conflating of such important ideas as constructivism, cooperative learning, discovery learning, guided discovery, progressive education, child-centered classrooms, and many others will be exposed as either gross misunderstanding or willful inaccuracy?

It's hard to know for sure what motivates such people, though I have my ideas and plan to share them here. It's a safe bet that there are different reasons for different people, but refusing to post critical comments offered in the spirit of, ahem, honest, open, rational debate about mathematics education suggests that they lack the courage and honesty to respond to real questions and challenges. Many of these folks post under pseudonyms (I'll get into specifics later), and many of the comments in support of their views are also anonymous. The explanation offered most frequently? If the blogger or poster is a parent, s/he fears reprisal by educators against his or her child(ren). If an educator, s/he believes that s/he'll be fired or disciplined by the district or some administrator for heretical views.

So behind the safety of anonymity, these folks spread amazingly vicious and dishonest theories and accusations about books, researchers, administrators, school board members, teachers, university educators, etc., and then have the unmitigated gall to refuse to allow dissent to appear on their blogs?

Not so here. I've stood in the kitchen and taken the heat from anti-reformers for close to 15 years, on and off the internet, and I won't worry about whatever additional heat this blog may draw. I may have to draw the line at out and out slander/libel, both for myself of course, and for those who offer comments. But I will try to offer negative responders a chance to edit out things that likely would be actionable. Criticism is not a problem. Disagreement is not a problem.

I know that the usual suspects will attack me here, very personally, but what I'd hope is that this blog just might flush out some real critics of reform (and by "real" I mean people with more to offer than rhetoric and propaganda). I have made no secret of my belief that progressive reformers have an obligation to answer legitimate questions from parents, teachers, and other stakeholders about what is going on in math class. The anti-reformers (and especially those who have acted in their capacity as parents of K-12 students) that schools and teachers dismiss reasonable, polite questions. Maybe that's true. If so, I can assure any such person that I won't shy away from trying to answer questions in the spirit in which they are asked. But based on reading many "parents with pitchforks" web sites, blogs, and lists, I think there are SOME parents out there who seem to think that their status allows them to be relentlessly hostile towards teachers, generally and particularly, and that those to whom their sarcasm and insults is directed are supposed to be saintly in how they reply. I don't think that's going to happen here.

So stay tuned. This should be interesting, if nothing else.

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