It is to laugh – or not ... more on culture wars in elementary math class ...

It’s not often that life imitates art so precisely.  When it does, the result is frightening. But there it all is, on YouTube and Twitter. 

First the art. Watch Alternative Math  - A Short Film at from Ideaman.  This is a nine minute recounting of a teacher’s existential crisis at trying to teach 2 + 2 = 4 in a modern progressive  American school.  The 2017 film is meant to be a parody, but then ….

... the real life.  On August 16 Cathy Young reported on MathGate, or the Battle of Two Plus Two – the culture wars come to math and reach a new low   at

Should 2 + 2 = 22, or some other set of answers? The battle has come to real teachers and administrators in real schools, as progressive math teachers and administrators obsess over the proper answer to 2 + 2 = x. 

Among the twitter combatants on whether 2 + 2 = 4 is a real mathematics teacher – an ethnic studies math teacher – who posted -

Apparently, in 2019 the Seattle public schools reconsidered their curriculum with a view toward integrating ethnic studies into math. Part of this effort involved teachers considering these questions in the K-12 math curriculum  - How important is it to be Right? What is Right?  Says Who? 

The Seattle document is at  

Apparently, the short film made in 2017 turns out not to be a parody but illuminates a real crisis for some social justice warriors.  We are at this point in American cultural history - Where does Power and Oppression show up in our math experiences? 

As to power and oppression, I would make a point about the role of the Electoral College in elections or letting truly ignorant people vote, but I suspect that would not endear me to the progressive side in this brouhaha. 

In her post, Cathy Young makes the relevant point –

In George Orwell’s 1984, the protagonist, Winston, writes in his diary that “freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four” (i.e., not being forced to deny reality), and is later tortured until he agrees that two plus two can be whatever the ruling Party wants. For many anti-SJWs, this is highly relevant to the current moment: they believe that undermining the truth of “2+2=4” is part of an “SJW” push to compel people to accept “politically correct” fictions.

I wrote about a similar development at  - how the forced language of the progressive left reminds me of the speech codes in the Chinese Communist Party.

Social justice warriors spending their own time and resources, and that of real teachers in real schools, arguing over the meaning of 2 + 2 is nothing but a waste. We are talking kindergarten or first grade kids here, not about more abstract ideas that can properly be considered when those kids come upon base 3.  In the end, the base 10 answer “4” will prevail.  But we will have spent plenty of … stupid … time on the stupid discussion.   My Chinese students are incredulous first, and laughing next. The Alternative Math video circulates widely now on the Chinese social medium  Wechat, with subtitles. To Americans -  “You go right ahead, and argue over the answer.  Knock yourselves out ….” 

But, you know, it all comes out ok in the end.  California governor Gavin Newsom just signed a bill requiring an ethnic studies course for graduation from California State Universities.  Maybe STEM majors from Seattle who are in the CalState system will be able to get credit for kindergarten math.