Sunday, September 28, 2008

Responding to Critics

Critics of our Gnu Math agenda say it's doomed for the same reasons New Math was doomed: no way to retrain the rank and file math teachers in time, and any attempts to do so will merely breed resentment and backlash, end of story.

My reply is simple: the Internet.

Back in the 1960s, when USAers were feeling panicy and self conscious about their lack of math and science skills, a tiny elite tried to introduce a lot of contemporary "best thinking" to an initially receptive "we'll try anything" audience, but there was no Internet to press into service this time around.

Things have changed, and now we don't even consider trying to move the big textbook publishers in our direction.

Maybe that tail will wag eventually, but it's the rest of the dog we're most concerned with e.g. Web sites, Youtubes, Flash, podcasts and so forth.

Emphasis on the Internet isn't just a matter of convenience either, it's a matter of (a) reaching students where they already prefer to be reached, i.e. we work in their medium of choice (cyberspace) and (b) a lot of the mathematics we're teaching in gnu math is geared around these very technologies e.g. computer languages and tcp/ip.

Because of this different mode of implementation, there's no point waiting for some thick "door stop" of a "gnu math textbook" to come down the pipe, no point mobilizing "parents with pitchforks" to militate against such a choice or curriculum option.

We're not planning any offerings in that regard.

We're way past that point, in terms of distribution and market penetration.

Plus we appreciate multicultural diversity and recognize that many ethnicities might choose to stick with more traditional fare, don't care for our product, don't even wish to sample our wares.

I have no objections to that. Free country.