Some academics and social justice warrior activists are now claiming that 2+2 can equal 5 and the traditional understanding of 2+2=4 is a construct of Eurocentric whiteness.
According to them, there is no such thing as objective reality, only cultural perspective.
Following the laws of mathematics that were developed by mostly European, white men is inherently dismissive of other cultures who may have their own ways of understanding the world, they say.
According to this mindset, 2+2 does not always equal 4. In the minds of these academics and activists, sometimes it can equal 5, based on the cultural perspective one is using.
The movement gained traction when New York Times journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones responded to a comedic meme originally created by James Lindsay, a mathematician and vocal critic of social justice ideologies.
Using Arabic numerals to try make a point about white, Western superiority is just so damn classic. https://t.co/Mpu4nSAebj
— Ida Bae Wells (@nhannahjones) July 5, 2020
Academics, including at least one math professor, and various other far-left activists joined in by speaking out against the “Western superiority” — as Hannah-Jones put it — of mathematics.
Associate Professor of Mathematics and Statistics at Smith College. pic.twitter.com/qpviGqFcw1
— James Lindsay, has a massive… evil following (@ConceptualJames) August 3, 2020
Imagine a system where we can only measure things to 1 decimal place. So 2 could mean 1.5 to 2.4 … 2.4 + 2.4 is 4.8 … in our theoretical system, this would look like 2+2=5. Again pretty normal to have error in measurements in normal life.
— 🔥Kareem Carr🔥 (@kareem_carr) July 31, 2020
along with the “of course math is neutral because 2+2=4” trope are the related (and creepy) “math is pure” and “protect math.”
reeks of white supremacist patriarchy.
i’d rather think on nurturing people & protecting the planet (with math in service of them goals) 🌏❤️💙💚
— Laurie Rubel (@Laurie_Rubel) August 4, 2020
@RutgersGSE You have a student named Brittany Marshall (@brittanylm3281) who believes that math is somehow a cultural construck of Western Imperialism.
Allowing someone who is this willfully dismissive of basic mathematics to graduate from your program is a reflection on you. pic.twitter.com/WsFXjVimwM
— Derek Smalls (Phildonicus Lascivious Grabbus II) (@DerekSmalls18) July 7, 2020
Lindsay explained to The Western Journal the genesis of the 2+2=5 movement and the motivations behind it.
“The short answer is that they’re always doing some play on the ‘words’ or symbols involved — changing the meanings of 2, 4 or 5, +, and = (sometimes just one of these, sometimes more) to play a word game that changes the meaning of the expression so that they can be right,” he said via email.
“The general principle in play is to remove clarity so people have to defer to their allegedly superior knowledge set to understand what is going on. The underlying principle, however, is to erode belief that we can express objective truths or have access to any such thing at all, which means everything is just subjective and then can be determined as right and wrong on their terms.”
Critical theory, a postmodern, neo-Marxist ideology currently being taught at many universities, uses a highly theoretical, interpretive approach to address cultural and political issues.
Often, to critical theorists, one’s identity (race, sex, religion, etc.) can be read into just about every human interaction as the primary motivating force.
Therefore, when examining modern mathematics, the first thing that critical theorists notice is the fact that historically, the field has been advanced and developed by mostly white, European men.
Because the field has been predominantly male and white, it is only representative of white men, they claim.
Lindsay expanded on this idea, explaining that the push for cultural inclusiveness (and with it, dismissiveness of ideas developed in the West) is reflected in “Ethnic Studies,” a field he described as being “connected” to the 2+2=5 movement.
“This is actually connected — and this is important — to a broader movement in education activism to install ‘Ethnic Studies’ programs in our various state education systems,” Lindsay told The Western Journal.
“The secretary director for the Washington State project in this regard, Shraddha Shirude, is the source of the specific 2+2=5 thing, in that she said it was being used to attack her ethnic studies program and ethnic mathematics agenda, after which point she specifically asked, ‘how can we turn this into a true statement?’ in order to defend her project better.”
Shirude’s blog, which she describes as “woman of color navigating a white man’s world by studying personal and mathematical identity” explains the essence of “Ethnic Studies.”
“Ethnic studies is about more than just multicultural history, it requires us to literally change how we see, think, and feel about the world,” Shirude wrote in a June 30 post.
“Woke math means waking up to see our own internalized white supremacy, waking up to see how we perpetuate white supremacy in our daily engagements in the math classroom, waking up to the idea that the reason the mathematics world is filled with white men is because we have allowed ourselves to believe that only a certain caliber of human (wealthy, white male) is capable of truly understanding how the world functions, thus allowing that caliber of human to control everything.”
Lindsay ended his comments to The Western Journal with one final thought on 2+2=5 movement.
“It’s not just some silly Twitter fight. It’s representative of a much bigger, politically actionable thing that’s happening in education,” Lindsay said. “[T]hey want to erase the ability to believe in objective truths and standards by playing word games, even with mathematical symbols and very simple truths like 2 and 2 make 4.”
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