It is to laugh – or not ... More on the culture wars

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. 

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 ….

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 

This is no parody, and apparently progressives around the country have rallied to find alternative answers to the question 2 + 2 = x.  And the debate is not only on Twitter, but in schools and school administrations. 


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 math 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 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? 


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 abstract ideas that can properly be considered when those kids come upon base 2.  In the end, the answer “4” will prevail.  But we will have spent plenty of … stupid … time on the stupid discussion.   My Chinese students, and I would bet students in most of the world, are incredulous first, and laughing next. To Americans -  “You go right ahead, and argue over the answer.  Knock yourselves out ….” 


Wokeness – and despair for democracy

Americans seem to have woken up to disparities in our society, particularly for black people.  This is a good thing. Wokeness will go a ways toward fulfilling the promises suggested in the Declaration of Independence.

But there is a most disturbing part of wokeness that is not limited to racial matters, and that is the language fascism of the left. It is as dangerous to a free society as any fascism of the right and too close to what we can observe every day in China.

What do you think of western civilization?

The question to Gandhi is now being asked again, this time by educated, sophisticated Chinese of each other.

This was the topic of a four-hour phone call a few nights ago between Chinese PhDs, both with extensive American experience and important midlevel career positions. 

In a word, their conclusion was the same as Gandhi’s – it would be a good idea. 

 Has Trump has been doing God’s work?


For years, some evangelical leaders have been touting Trump as the wolf-king, anointed by God to enact the Christian right agenda.  Symbols are important in this swamp-fevered world, and Trump’s immorality is actually a positive sign of his worthiness.  Go figure.

Four years ago, Peter Montgomery noted 25 Religious Right Justifications for Supporting Donald Trump.  Christian right leaders spoke endlessly of Trump as a chosen vessel for God's will, saying things like "God has picked him up" and that Trump is "literally splitting the kingdom of darkness right open" and that "the Lord has put His favor upon him."

Now I wonder if the coronavirus is a symbol from God as well, a sign of displeasure.  Is God finished with Trump?  Is Trump past his heavenly use-by date?

What is this moral freedom business?

Part 4  Solving the government’s problem under agency as freedom

All governments have two main tasks to fulfill, regardless of their culture or political system - provide sufficient personal freedom for people to conduct daily affairs, and maintain social order so that personal freedom can be exercised and the culture can function.  Personal freedom is freedom to buy and sell, make choices about work and leisure.  Social order is conducted via law and regulation and custom and etiquette. Civil society also functions as a mechanism of social control, as a transmitter of values. Governments have to provide for both tasks simultaneously.

Ci Jiwei describes two ways of securing agency for individuals –  agency as freedom and agency as identification.  It is this ability to exercise individual agency that contributes to a sense of human dignity – that one’s thoughts and hopes are considered in the world.  

Both ways are valid approaches to securing dignity if they function as intended. Both can fail.  But there is an aspect to agency as freedom as a social stabilizer that makes the government’s job of providing for freedom and order much easier.  I want to discuss that here.


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    Once Upon a Time, America


    At the end of 2018, I wrote a series of posts on similarities between Xi and Trump, CCP and GOP.  See below.

    Now, about six weeks before the election, Barton Gellman at the Atlantic has an analysis of how Trump can disrupt the election and refuse to leave.   This is by no means the only story like this, and the idea seems more and more possible.  What if Trump Refuses to Concede?

    Read more ...  
  • A Quick Voting Guide

    A Quick Voting Guide

    We get plenty of advice about how to be a good or strong leader – ask others for input, don’t take all the credit, don’t micromanage … but these are modes of practice.  When we look around, there is surprisingly little advice on the sort of moral qualities a leader should possess.  Here is a quick review.

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  • Everything old is new again – Inner Mongolia

    Everything old is new again – Inner Mongolia

    If you’ve gotten tired of depressing news from Tibet, Xinjiang, and Hong Kong, there is a new oppression to watch in Inner Mongolia. As in the other provinces comprising mostly non-Han people, the new policy requires forced language change and erasing of traditional culture.

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