Over at Blue Marble (I’m not sure what it’s doing there, but whatever), Deanna Pan regales us with 14 wacky facts that Louisiana kids will soon be taught on the public dime now that Gov. Bobby Jindal’s new voucher program is poised to go into effect. There’s lots of good stuff there, but since I’m a product of the New Math, I got the biggest kick out of this one:
11. Abstract algebra is too dang complicated: “Unlike the “modern math” theorists, who believe that mathematics is a creation of man and thus arbitrary and relative, A Beka Book teaches that the laws of mathematics are a creation of God and thus absolute….A Beka Book provides attractive, legible, and workable traditional mathematics texts that are not burdened with modern theories such as set theory.” – ABeka.com
Teaching set theory to fourth graders in the 1960s probably wasn’t the greatest idea in the world, but not because set theory is either “modern” or “arbitrary and relative.” It just turned out not to have much to do with teaching kids how to add and subtract. Still, it’s true that the foundations of modern math are fundamentally based on axioms that can change depending on which ones seem the most useful. And a good thing too, unless you think Einstein’s theory of relativity is some God-denying conspiracy against Euclid’s fifth postulate. Which these guys might. Who knows?
In any case — and to change the subject entirely — this is why Bobby Jindal is my semi-dark horse pick to be Mitt Romney’s running mate. I know he’s got a few things in his background that might be troublesome, but nothing too bad. And he’s got a lot going for him: tea party cred, good speaking skills, not a boring white guy, gives conservatives a chance to show they’re OK with dark-skinned politicians, and — well, stuff like his voucher program, which he hasn’t backed down on despite plenty of withering criticism of all the money that will end up in the pockets of fly-by-night Christian schools. True conservatives take that as a badge of honor, not a criticism, and so does Jindal.
In any case, he’s my current guess. Put your guess in comments, but do it quickly if you want full Nostradamus credit.
UPDATE: My guess that this was all related to conservative animus toward the New Math along with philosophical opposition to Hilbert’s program is, apparently, wrong. Maggie Koerth-Baker has a much more parsimonious and knowledgable explanation here. It’s also far more entertaining! Apparently poor old Georg Cantor is the villain in this story.
I admit that my original theory (New Math + Hilbert) was sort of unlikely. But in this case, it turns out that its big problem is that it wasn’t unlikely enough. Go figure.