Learning Math Can Cause ‘Collateral Damage’ to Society

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In the abstract, Ernest recommends “the inclusion of the philosophy and ethics of mathematics alongside its teaching all stages from school to university, to attempt to reduce or obviate the harm caused” — but I really don’t think this is necessary.

Now, I’ll be the first one to say I don’t like math. It was always my least favorite subject in school, but that’s not because I was intimidated by how “masculine” it was — whatever the hell that even means. I did happen to prefer other subjects, but I never once thought about my preference for those subjects in terms of my femininity. What’s more, as much as I may not have liked studying it, I certainly never viewed it as harmful to me in any way. In fact, I’ve quite enjoyed knowing how to add and subtract, and I don’t think that my addition and subtraction abilities have caused me any sort of issues because I don’t view them through the lens of any sort of philosophy.

Some things in life are objective and rational, and that’s perfectly okay. The idea that learning about something that doesn’t involve emotions would somehow make people emotionless overall makes absolutely no sense. After all, there are plenty of things we learn as humans that are strictly practical. For example: I learned how to brush my teeth without any sort of discussion about ethics or feelings whatsoever, and I continue to brush my teeth without having any feelings about it to this day. Has that affected my ability to have feelings in other areas of my life? Absolutely not, and neither did learning about math. Students have all sorts of opportunities to study subjects that lend themselves to conversations about ethics and emotions, such as literature and social studies, and they learn even more about this part of life outside of the classroom. To actually suggest that learning a subject with “unfeelingness” is going to create “collateral damage” of any kind is certainly an absurd one — and I certainly don’t think that math is our enemy in any way. By Katherine Timpf


This story was originally covered in an article in Campus Reform.

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