Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Math Professors from UCI, NYU, Princeton Warn About the Radical Left Attacks on Accelerated Math Education

 America Is Flunking Math

By Percy Deift (New York University), Svetlana Jitomirskaya (University of California, Irvine) and Sergiu Klainerman (Princeton University)

Among all human endeavors, mathematics stands alone in terms of its beauty, universality, and innumerable applications. Though its role is often obscured by esoteric language, mathematics is behind almost all of humanity’s major advances in science and engineering.

Bridges stand, planes fly, rockets carry us into space, and MRIs can see into our brains thanks to precise mathematical calculations performed by powerful computers, invented by mathematicians such as Alan Turing and John von Neumann. Behind tasks performed by computers—predicting the weather, performing complex financial transactions, or encrypting billions of messages each day—lie sophisticated mathematical algorithms. Artificial intelligence, for example, is but a happy marriage between powerful computers and abstract mathematical models that sort and analyze massive amounts of data.

Before our discipline became the universal global enterprise it is today, great mathematical discoveries passed from ancient civilizations to medieval ones and then to modern ones. One can argue that the preeminence of each civilization was, in part, due to their sophisticated understanding and use of mathematics. This is particularly clear in the case of the West, which forged ahead in the 17th century with the discovery of calculus, one of the greatest scientific breakthroughs of all time.

The United States became the dominant force in the mathematical sciences in the wake of World War II, largely due to the disastrous racist policies of the Third Reich. The Nazis’ obsession with purging German science of what it viewed as nefarious Jewish influence led to a massive exodus of Jewish mathematicians and scientists to America. One of them was Albert Einstein, whom Time magazine would declare Person of the Century in 1999. Science in Germany hasn't returned to its former glory to this day.

The quality of mathematics research in the United States today is the envy of the scientific world. This is a direct result of the openness and inclusivity of the profession. David Hilbert’s ‘‘mathematics knows no races’’ is the living motto of the community of American mathematicians. Indeed, academic institutions in the United States have thrived largely because of their ability to attract talented individuals from around the world. The availability of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) professionals, highly trained in mathematics, has been crucial to our success as a nation. 

Can Americans maintain this unmatched excellence in the future? There are worrisome signs that suggest not.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development compares mathematical proficiency among 15-year-olds by country worldwide. According to its 2018 report, America ranked 37th while China, America’s main competitor for world leadership, came in first. This is despite the fact that the United States is the fifth-highest spender per pupil among the 37 developed OECD nations. Alas, fewer and fewer young Americans are adequately prepared to embark on a career in STEM.

This massive failure of our K-12 education system trickles through the STEM pipeline. At the undergraduate level, too few American students are prepared for higher-level mathematics courses. These students are then unprepared for rigorous graduate-level work. According to our own experiences at the universities where we teach, an overwhelming majority of American students with strong math backgrounds are either foreign-born or first-generation students who have additional support from their education-conscious families. At all levels, STEM disciplines are more and more dependent on a constant flow of foreign talent.

Read the rest here.


  1. "At all levels, STEM disciplines are more and more dependent on a constant flow of foreign talent."
    That's a feature, not a bug.

    1. It's not a bug that America accepts, qua accepts, foreigners; To be blind (at least to some extent) to country of origin shows that you can separate the individual from the group. And that's great.

      But to believe that foreign talent is absolutely necessary ignores the potential of other individuals, as well as ignores economics.

      For example, foreigners from Mexico occasionally try the "day without a Mexican" protest, and Americans rightly just laugh it off.

      That's not to say that many Americans make the opposite mistake, where they believe it's necessary to prevent "too much" immigration to protect Americans' jobs - there's plenty of work to go around if the government gets out of the way because humans will never stop wanting more out of life. We'll never just sit down and do nothing with the rest of our lives - and that creates arbitrage opportunities for others to profit off of.

      I do think we should be wary of socialists being accepted into the country, however. Or better yet, privatize all land and let individuals decide who will or will not be allowed onto their homes, roads, and businesses.

  2. Government run education...what do you expect. Sadly, if you read the article in the link the first comments I saw support CRT. I'd agree that CRT is not the sole problem. It's just one piece on a list of problems that can be summed up with "government education".