Friday, January 5, 2018

Professors Say Academic Rigor, Achievement Racist

            Donna Riley, Purdue University’s School of Engineering Education (PUSEE) head, believes academic “rigor accomplishes dirty deeds” including “white male heterosexual privilege,” according to a report by Campus Reform. Huh?
            In the abstract to her article in the journal Engineering Studies, Riley wrote: “Understanding how rigor reproduces inequality, we cannot reinvent it but rather must relinquish it.” Huh?
She contends that rigor “has a historical lineage of being about hardness, stiffness, and erectness; its sexual connotations—and links to masculinity in particular—are undeniable.” Riley claims a “visceral reaction in many conversations where I have seen rigor asserted has been to tell parties involved (regardless of gender) to whip them out and measure them already.” Huh?
Riley, on a roll, also averred that academic rigor reveals “how structural forces of power and privilege operate to exclude men of color and women, students with disabilities, LGBTQ+ people, first-generation and low-income students, and non-traditionally aged students.”
She asserted that rigor can “reinforce gender, race, and class hierarchies in engineering, and maintain invisibility of queer, disabled, low-income, and other marginalized engineering students.”
The Boilermaker’s School of Engineering Education (SEE) leader also said that research shows “a climate of microaggressions and cultures of whiteness and masculinity” permeate the field of engineering. She further stated that the discipline harbors “inherent masculinist, white, and global North bias…all under a guise of neutrality.”
Global North bias? I don’t even know what that is. I looked it up- or tried to- and I think it means that because north is positioned up on maps, people tend to see “it” first, and that it is also associated more with whiter and wealthier people, while southerly locales are thought of as harboring poorer and darker-pigmented people.
Moreover, the potty professor argued that “scientific knowledge” itself is “gendered, raced, and colonizing,” and has previously said she wants to be “part of a paradigm shift” to move “diversity in science and engineering from superficial measures of equity as headcounts, to addressing justice…” in part by “integrating concerns related to public policy, professional ethics and social responsibility.”
Scientific knowledge is gendered, raced, and colonizing? Perhaps you’re alluding to the global warming fascists who state “the science is settled?” Ms. Riley, academic rigor produces quality, not inequality. If we are to survive as a society, we must leave some disciplines untainted by social justice warrior dogma. You want social responsibility? Spewing forth preposterous prevarications is inimical to social responsibility. Designing and constructing buildings and bridges that don’t fall down is the very definition of “socially responsible.”  As is the invention and production of tools, machinery, computer components and medical devices that save lives and make us more productive.
Sadly, Professor Riley is by no means alone in her nuttiness. More and more academics are speaking out against the evils…of academic achievement. Take Professor Rochelle Gutierrez of the University of Illinois for instance. She is a math education professor who believes the ability to solve geometry and algebra problems- and the teaching of such subjects- perpetuates white privilege. Gutierrez’ views are laid out in an article published in an anthology for mathematics educators titled, “Building Support for Scholarly Practices in Mathematics methods.” To wit: “School mathematics curricula emphasizing terms like Pythagorean Theorem and pi perpetuate a perception that mathematics was largely developed by Greeks and other Europeans.” She flatly states that equity in mathematics education will only be attained when teachers can understand and negotiate the politics outside the classroom.
That’s a capital idea! Politics hasn’t yet completely and permanently permeated addition and subtraction, geometry and algebra. One plus one equals two? Who says? The white European Patriarchy? Is that code for the denigration and marginalization of single people or those in a polyamorous relationship?
Professor Gutierrez continued: “On many levels, mathematics itself operates as whiteness. Who gets credit for doing and developing mathematics, who is capable in mathematics, and who is seen as part of the mathematical community is generally viewed as white.” Ms. Gutierrez says mathematics operates with unearned privilege in society, “just like whiteness.” Egads! I see it now, they are one and the same! How could I have been so blind? Does sociology itself operate as blackness?
Incredibly? Tragically? Incredibly tragically, University of Illinois interim Provost John Wilkin told Fox News that Gutierrez is an established, respected, and admired scholar who has frequently been published in peer-reviewed publications. “The issues around equity and access in education are real—with significant implications to our entire educational system. Exploring challenging pedagogical questions is exactly what faculty in a world-class college of education should be doing,” he said.
In the anthology, Professor Gutierrez claims that mathematics operates as a proxy for intelligence, but asks, “are we really that smart just because we do mathematics?” Well…
She also asked, “As researchers, are we more deserving of large grants because we focus on mathematics education and not social studies or English?” And, she goes so far as to say that evaluations of math skills discriminate against minorities, especially if they do worse than their white counterparts. Well…I guess one could say that evaluations of any skill necessarily discriminate against those who don’t do as well as their counterparts, regardless of gender, color, or anything else. Gutierrez also bemoaned the fact that people are “judged by whether they can reason abstractly.” Quite. Why should a student be “judged” on their ability to analyze information, detect patterns, and solve problems of a complex, intangible nature? Why can’t mathematics and engineering students just ruminate on tolerance, openness, love, and acceptance all semester long? Oh wait, sorry, those are all abstract concepts.
Gutierrez purports to be baffled by the fact that the average person doesn’t seriously question the role of mathematics in society. (I’m baffled by how she obtained her position as head of Purdue’s School of Engineering Education). Her solution, of course, is for teachers to develop broader political knowledge, to better prepare them in determining what learning opportunities work best for their students. (“Well, Hector, I know you wanted to become an engineer, but I think journalism would be a better fit for you, Amigo!”).
It is a dangerous, disingenuous, and sinister road on which we are traveling. One which can only lead to a fractured society of entitled- and incompetent- citizens watching helplessly as hope and self-esteem crumble as fast as the nation’s infrastructure.
When all rigor, success, achievement, knowledge, communication skill, competence, decency, reason, restraint and striving are labeled- and thoroughly denigrated- as “racist” or “sexist,” as signs of “white privilege” or equated with “whiteness” itself, everyone loses. Indeed, human life is cheapened when these things are mocked and perverted. When the very things that elevate us, that differentiate us from flora and fauna and transform us for the better, are considered pointless at best and evil at worst, society has reached a tipping point.
When “progressive academics” state that these previously positive attributes are truly characteristic of only one race, they do grave disservice to all the others. This is the worst possible form of racism.
And one that I must rigorously protest.

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