What if You Hate this Blog

Having put out a few fires, I will return to posting on the draft curriculum. (The open letter can still be signed, here.) But, first, a meta-post on the draft.

It was brought to my attention that a Professor who might have otherwise contemplated signing the open letter did not even consider signing, because the open letter is seen to be “associated with” my ACARA page. The Professor decided that they could not “endorse” the style of criticism that I (and perhaps some commenters) provide there. I am sure the Professor is far from alone. So, how to respond?

Dear Professor, and Others,

I will try to make this simple.

(1) If you agree with the open letter then maybe you should just sign the letter. If not, not. Why is this hard?

(2) The open letter is not mine. I was involved in its production, but it is not my letter. It is no one’s letter. It is a letter stating a point of view, and with a request for ACARA and the ACARA Board to withdraw the draft curriculum. In particular, the letter is not hosted on this blog, and the idea that signing the letter somehow amounts to an endorsement of me or my blog is absolutely absurd. Signing the letter is an endorsement of the letter. That’s what “endorse” means. See point (1).

(3) I have provided the ACARA page (and the draft curriculum page) as assistance, in the unlikely event that someone couldn’t make their way through ACARA’s documentation. You are of course free to ignore my page entirely, and to use other sources. The fact that there are no other sources may be a bit of a hurdle, but I’m afraid that is your problem to solve. In any case, it is up to you to decide how to evaluate ACARA’s draft curriculum, and to act accordingly. See point (1).

(4) I can understand why you may find this blog, and me, distasteful, or worse. I can understand there are good and popular arguments, even just in my own self-interest, for why I should write in a different style. I believe I can defend myself and my blog, but this is not the place to do it. It is not the place to do it, because my blog is not the issue here. The issue here is the draft curriculum and the open letter. See point (1).

See, it’s not really that hard, is it?

Kind Regards, Marty

p. s. See point (1).


11 Replies to “What if You Hate this Blog”

  1. One word:


    If I was a conspiracist I’d wonder whether the Professor has a hidden agenda in saying this …
    Anyway, if the Professor genuinely feels that the ACARA document deserves criticism but can’t bear the thought of even the most tenuous of associations with your blog and its contents, s/he can write his/her own open letter (and perhaps invite signatories). The more independent and public criticism the better.

    1. Thanks, JF. I am certain there is no hidden agenda, but I agree that it is a cop out.

      Of course no one is obliged to sign the letter, even if they agree with it. I know of a number of people who agree with the letter, at least in large part, but won’t sign for various considerations of diplomacy. I think that’s fine, and is an aspect for each person to evaluate for themselves. But, to not sign because of this blog? Yep, I think that’s a cop out.

  2. On the one hand, I have to say that nobody is forced to sign that letter, and “any” reason has intrinsic validity.

    Still, these reasons can be discussed. For example, the reason of “I don’t want to be associated with Marty’s blog” is discussed here in this post. It isn’t the only reason of dubious merit, one might also not want to be associated with a UNSW PhD student, or an open letter in general. Or one might have a direct or indirect superior (say a dean or head of department) involved in the new curriculum. Given the broad “consultation” of the new curriculum, and the tiny scope of Australian mathematics, this is actually quite a high probability.

    These latter reasons make a lot of sense to me. Especially in the current environment where people are losing their jobs and the tertiary sector is shrinking dramatically.

    Personally though, I don’t begrudge anyone for any reasons, even dubious ones, for not signing the letter. It’s a highly personal choice I feel. I have signed it, and I was very much on the fence for a variety of reasons. For me in the end it was a matter of priorities, and of a burning fire that really has been out of control for too long, with me mostly just watching it burn. In essence, I thought about how I would feel about myself if I had signed vs not signed. Four or five years ago I would not have signed. Now, I need to sign this.

    My son received his half-year report back from school last week. He was shattered by it, and cried for almost an hour. The teacher had written things in there that were wrong, and that broke my son’s heart, because for the first time he thought he had a teacher that understood him. For the first time, he actually put in effort in his school work.

    Poor teaching is not a necessary result of a poor curriculum. But for me, it is yet more evidence that there is something fundamentally wrong and as many people as possible need to, together, work to fix it. I will not be able to just leave this letter unsigned. I might have reservations but these are nothing compared to the larger issues facing mathematics education in Australia.

    1. Thanks, Glen.

      On general principle, I agree, that the default should be to silently respect a person’s decision to not sign, this letter or any public statement, independent of the reason. Note the “maybe” in point (1). I think the world is in general too concerned for collegiality and too little for truth, but truth is not ever the only concern.

      In the case of the Professor, however, I make an exception. I still respect their decision to not sign the letter, but their semi-public declaration of the “because of Marty’s blog” argument was dumb enough and personal enough to feel a response here was fair and reasonable.

      And, seriously, to have someone whine about this blog, while the Grand Masters of Mathematics do bugger all to sway public opinion, to tell the public truth, is really really annoying. The reason we are in this damn mess is because the Grand Masters have permitted the maths ed ideologues to have their constructivist way for twenty full years, if not more. The Grand Masters, more than anyone else, should hang their heads in shame.

    1. Public opinion is always relevant. Public opinion creates pressure. And pressure motivates outcomes.

  3. Do like the idea of an Open Letter – might use that in my ebook.
    Pathetic that a Professor won’t sign up to criticising ACARA or Education in general.

    1. Hi, Ewen. Sorry for the later posting of your comment. It was stuck in spam.

      I disagree, about the Professor, or anybody, not signing up. As Glen and I discussed above, one should be respectful of a person’s right to not sign such a letter, even for unstated or poor reasons. But, one doesn’t have to be respectful of the reasons themselves, especially when they amount to a personal attack.

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