Less Meritocracy, More Social Justice… for MATH?

According to a professor at Brooklyn College “meritocracy” should now be considered “a tool of whiteness.”

Odd for a math professor–especially one as decorated and credentialed as Laurie Rubel–to be so confused. She also went on to decry “color-blindness” as well. But that didn’t stop her from making the argument:

“Rubel, who taught high school math for nine years before becoming a professor, argues that while meritocracy is commonly linked to hard work and talent, it also “functions as a tool of whiteness” because it “ignores systemic barriers and institutional structures that prevent opportunity and success.”

Color-blindness, too, can be an issue for math teachers, according to Rubel, who asserts that “Teachers who claim to not notice the race of their students—are, in effect, refusing to acknowledge the impact of enduring racial stratification on students and their families.

“By claiming not to notice, the teacher is saying that she is dismissing one of the most salient features of the child’s identity and that she does not account for it in her curricular planning and instruction,” Rubel adds.

Is she right?

How could she be?

The dictionary disagrees with her. Merriam-Webster defines meritocracy as: “A system in which the talented are chosen and moved ahead on the basis of their achievement.”

So do referees. In this weekend’s playoff games, the only team that was allowed to keep the ball on any given possession was the one that had scratched out ten yards of progress. In fact they were really hard core about it because they only allowed a team to win if they had more points than the other one.

So do my kids. “Dad, I washed up first and wanted to pick the seat to sit at, and you said that whoever was the quickest to obey would get to choose.”

So do terrorists. ISIS thug #1 to ISIS thug #2, “The enemy has collapsed the outer defenses. Soon the city will be theirs.”

So do bosses, “Ok, due to the overwhelming sales numbers of sales rep Don Smith this year, we’ve decided to promote him to local business sales manager for the coming year.”

So does business. “Charlie’s Pizza Factory” gets cited for 18 health code violations, and a failure to provide proper service to its customers, and in six months has to close its doors because customers liked going to Tom’s Pizza castle that had no reports of problems.

Then why shouldn’t teachers? Especially MATH teachers?

Math isn’t an “effort” subject. It’s a precision subject. Taking precise amounts, adding to them, subtracting from them, multiplying them and dividing them–has nothing to do with feelings. It’s not about why your Dad didn’t graduate college. It has zero cares about what you think of the president. Math is completely unfeeling, and as such has the ability to help us make sense of what at times can seem to be a very confusing world.

Meritocracy should be a moral requirement of math teachers.

Do you want a doctor who didn’t have to measure the drugs he prescribes properly? Do you want a mechanic that just makes up what to charge you for a given job, regardless of his time or the cost of the parts involved? How about a lawyer, who is both charging you for his time, and attempting to secure a settlement for you–does the math involved mean anything?

I don’t understand the meme that argues that meritocracy is cruel. It’s the fairest system mankind has been able to devise.

But it is dependent upon things you would believe a Math instructor would have a grasp of: truth.

Two pennies is two cents, ninety-eight more and you have a dollar.

Her proposed solution wants to introduce “social justice” issues into the teaching of math? That we are to care more about our neighbors in teach them math? That we should take race into account first in the teaching of and expectation from the students who are learning the math?

If teachers have relatability issues to their students be it lifestyle, economic factors, race, religion, etc. then they absolutely should learn how to be more relatable.

But the solution can not be “just do your best.” Not on fact driven problem solving.

And how that is explicitly “whiteness” is beyond reason.

We want and need ALL children to be able to add 2+2. And holding them to that standard is the only thing that will help them get there.


Resource Strategies: Ideas To Help You Live Life To The Fullest

I was recently challenged by a long ago listener and friend on something I fully agreed with.

“So is all you cover Hillary and Trump,” came the question. “I would imagine with the ability to reach people that you have, there would be so much more that you could do.”

The words didn’t sting, because even I have grown–at times–predictably bored or exasperated with this election cycle. The options are what they are, I report on the news of the day, and that’s that. Not much more to go on.

But the words of my friend did penetrate deep inside my brain, because the point is a true one. And sometimes you just need to see it from one more perspective to help you get it.

I’ve also realized my life is such a bigger collection of interests, experiences, and I hope goodness in a variety of arenas that I think there might be much more to discover, learn, and spread. This is so especially true for those of us with large media platforms.

I say it on the air all the time but if I really mean it, I have to live it too.

“If we want a different world, we have to grow different people!”

So that’s what my new stream of posts and articles housed here at the Binge Thinker will take space to focus on.

DO NOT WORRY! The political and news analysis that I get paid to give will still be a key portion of my commentary here, but a new category of material will also begin to appear: RESOURCE STRATEGIES: Ideas To Help You Live Life To The Fullest.

Each installment will have singular focus on one area of life. They may be health, financial, relational, spiritual, and various other areas that we just do not discuss in the *breaking news* environment of my on-air commentary. But they will be a resource to you that you can find via #hashtags, topic search, or just casual browsing.

One of the resources I feel truly humbled to be able to bring to the fore in this area are the vast numbers of experts I get to converse with and engage in an on-going, never-ending, always-more-to-be-learned dialogue in these areas of life. So every feature will include some short pithy examinations of the topic, and practical, easy, and helpful take-aways to get you thinking. That is what we do around these parts is it not?

So begin to look for them. You’ll spot them by the light-bulb graphic (the universal symbol for an idea,) filled with gears (because they must be able to function properly,) carved of wood (to represent the work that goes into improving the life you wish to lead.)


And I promise I will do my best to give you great expertise, in compact, simple to use reminders that the most satisfying life we can imagine DOES exist, and it’s within reach, and with basic focus can yet be accomplished.

I look forward to the journey with you!