“We’re desperate,” the voice on the other end of the phone told me. “The person I had plugged in to teach math and English just handed me a last-minute resignation. Is there any possibility you could teach for me this year?”
I had just graduated from college the previous May, and my wife was about to enter her senior year. My salary barely covered our living expenses, and the teaching pay would take care of her expenses for the final year of college—plus she was expecting our firstborn the following May. At that time we didn’t know she would have twins!
After Kathy and I spent the following two days in prayerful consideration, and a neighbor who taught at Oak Grove High School invited me to carpool, I called back and agreed to come in and sign a contract. My brief public school teaching career was underway.
The following nine months provided me with the opportunity to teach seventh and eighth graders in a rural high school that combined seventh through 12th grade under one roof. If I learned one thing during that early time in my life, it was that mathematics is absolute. Two plus two is always four. E always equals MC squared. Those are absolutely true. No deviation.
While carrying out some research for the Master Life Coach Training Institute’s “Grandcoaching” course, I was surprised when I came across an article about high school curriculum dated August 7, 2022, in the Washington Examiner that linked math curriculum and critical race theory.
Written by education reporter Jeremiah Poff, the article stated, “Schools across the country have made considerable efforts to incorporate aspects of critical race theory into math curricula, often by modifying achievement standards and student expectations.”
The article quoted an education fellow from the Heritage Foundation as asserting, “You have this argument that man is meant to combat white supremacy as opposed to giving students the tools they need to succeed in school and in life. Math is a tool of racial warfare instead of something that is supposed to prepare students to be successful in the job market or as they go off to college.”
I was immensely puzzled. How could the teaching of algebra, geometry, or trigonometry be affected by the racial makeup of those being taught? Granted, a larger percentage of students from some ethnic minorities come from homes with lower incomes. But how could that affect the absolute truths all of us from whatever background were taught regarding mathematics?
I called a friend who had just signed a contract to teach high school math in Texas. Terry agreed that students from low-income homes in urban areas were most likely to struggle with math and science. “But I don’t agree that this is because of a set of laws or an oppressive educational structure in the United States that targets people from ethnic minorities.”
I told Terry that a colleague and I had been shocked to learn from the Washington Examiner article as well as a number of others how several states, from Minnesota to California, had begun incorporating “teaching for equity and engagement” into their mathematics curriculums. In addition, the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation had established a website providing materials on the subject “Dismantling Racism in Mathematics Instruction.”
“I see this as a dangerous movement,” Terry went on. “While proponents of this trend may try to claim that it doesn’t affect teaching math content, they miss the point. When you begin to modify the curriculum to guarantee what one perceives as ‘equitable outcomes,’ the effect is to lower expectations and the ability of students to perform at jobs they take after school. The truth is that no one learns math with this approach. In fact, my concern is that this is part of a much larger trend in our society, one that says there is no absolute truth. There is only my truth and your truth.”
I responded by telling Terry about another article titled “The Folly of Woke Math,” which stated that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation spent $642 million last year to fund this ‘new’ approach to math.
From my perspective, this is the foundational threat to our grandchildren today. In history, social sciences, literature—and now in math—they are being taught that the only absolute is, there are no absolutes. What a dangerous paradox!
“One of my children works in computer science,” Terry told me. “Another is a pediatrician. I am really glad they were not exposed to this kind of approach to the subject of mathematics. And I certainly don’t intend to incorporate it into my instruction.
“I believe truth matters—absolutely,” I replied. “The question of truth goes back to the trial of Jesus Christ, when the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, asked the question, ‘What is truth?’ That’s still a vital question today.
“I remember a disaster that occurred in Kansas City in 1981 while I was living there. Several skybridges had been designed into the massive lobby of the newly-constructed, Hyatt Regency Hotel. But 114 people lost their lives, and many others were injured one Friday evening when those Skybridge collapsed. A later investigation turned up an incorrect mathematical calculation as the cause.”
“I also recall reading about the postmodern architecture incorporated into a building constructed on the campus of the Ohio State University in Columbus,” Terry responded. “They had staircases that went nowhere, and structural elements that seemed to defy gravity. But an architect friend looked at the building and said, ‘I suspect they didn’t use those design elements on the foundation! The building which surely has collapsed.’”
I couldn’t help thinking of other similar disasters, such as a 174-foot-long pedestrian bridge that collapsed while under construction on the campus of Florida International University. It was later reported that the National Transportation Safety Board concluded that the design firm underestimated the load of the bridge and overestimated its strength– all based on mathematical calculations.
And earlier this summer five individuals lost their lives when OceanGate’s Titan submersible imploded on an excursion to the site of the Titanic wreck. Absolute truth in mathematics matters!”
“I don’t have any grandchildren yet,” Terry continued. “But I’m sure glad you and your team have developed that Grandcoaching curriculum. Are you making it available to parents too?”
“Absolutely,” I replied. “We used the title “Grandcoaching” because we believe grandparents likely have more time than parents, and in many cases, a more conservative perspective, and can speak truth into the lives of their grandchildren using the skills and strategies of faith-based life coaching.
“Josh McDowell has provided a great deal of our video content. As you know, he is the best-selling author of books such as Evidence That Demands a Verdict and More Than a Carpenter.
In one of his videos, Josh shares a story about a high school girl who was asked to write a column on truth. He explained that her conclusion was, “Truth is not always the same. It changes from time to time, and from person-to-person, depending on circumstances. What is true today may not be absolutely true tomorrow, and what was true yesterday may not be true today.”
As he talked with this young lady, Josh raised the question, “Are you sure you are correct? Your statement that there is no absolute truth is a pretty absolute statement!”
“Of course, I’m right,” the young lady retorted. “People used to believe that the earth was flat. Now they understand that it’s round.”
Josh responded, “But when people believed the earth was flat, was it flat? Or was it actually round?”
“Everyone knows it was actually round!” she replied.
“So, what changed?” Josh continued. “Did the truth change? Or did your perception of the truth change?”
In the 16-week online Grandcoaching course we have developed, Josh McDowell offers the following definition of truth, which could be applied to math, science or any other discipline of study. “Truth is that which has fidelity to the original.”
He illustrates the absolute nature of truth this way: “I tell you my bottle of water has exactly one liter in it. You insisted that could not be right. Which of us is true?”
“To be absolutely certain, we would both need to fly to Paris France, then rent a car and drive out into the countryside to the International Bureau of Weights and Measures. There they have all the original metric weights and metric measures for liquids, solids, etc.
“When we reach there, we would take the original measure of a liter and pour my water from the bottle into it. If it fits exactly, then I would have been absolutely correct and true regarding the amount of water in my bottle.”
“Josh’s material is powerful!” Terry exclaimed. “I’ve read several of his books, and they certainly address the issue of absolute truth. I believe you and your team have developed some training that can really help parents or grandparents steer their grandchildren away from some of these dangerous trends that I see in so many areas. I’m going to share your website with my wife Katie and our study group at church. Most of them are grandparents; those that aren’t are parents who, I believe, are concerned about the kind of things their sons and daughters are being exposed to.”
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Originally published August 03, 2023