Thursday, February 01, 2018

Just What Mathematics Doesn't Need

It's perfectly reasonable to use statistics to explore social justice topics.  The converse?  Not so much:
This spring semester, the general Introduction to Statistics course at Pomona College has a new addition to its curriculum—the exploration of social justice issues. Taught by visiting assistant professor Omayra Ortega, a Pomona alumna, the class uses “examples from social justice literature [to] help explain the statistics.”

This course is the only general introductory statistics class offered at Pomona. Other introductory classes have a specific applied focus, like Biostatistics, Economic Statistics, or Statistics for Politics and International Relations...

Given the limited time available in a semester, Introduction to Statistics’s emphasis on social justice contrasts with courses like Economic Statistics, or Statistics for Politics and International Relations, which focus on statistical concepts and tools. The syllabus for Statistics for Politics shows no mandatory reading on issues unrelated to statistics, with political reading only listed as “recommended reading.”

In contrast, according to the course syllabus obtained by The Independent, social justice is central to Ortega’s class, noting that “the main goal of this course [Math 058] is to enhance your analytical and statistical skills while exploring topics in social justice.”

A component of the class also includes mandatory journals submitted every week that “should contain reflections on both the statistical and social justice topics covered.”
Can you imagine the outcry if a "Family Values Statistics" course were offered?  Can you imagine if abortion were studied statistically?  Or how about "Racial Studies Statistics", where the probabilities of black and white males' being shot by police officers is studied?  There are some very politically uncomfortable topics that could be studied if higher education conservatives were as crazy as the liberals are.

My "Math For Social Justice" posts from years ago again become apropos.  Here and here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In a perfect world that could actually be pretty helpful. Can you imagine applying actual math to some of the social justice claims? You could teach a whole course on bad stats.

Of course, this is not a perfect world.