The period for submissions to ACARA on their draft mathematics curriculum closed on July 8. Our intention is to wind this up, and get to the backlogged mountains of nonsense, but there are at least a couple more posts that need to be done.
On July 2, The President of the Australian Mathematical Society,* Ole Warnaar, wrote to ACARA’s CEO, David de Carvalho. Ole has subsequently written an open letter to ACARA on what then occurred.
In his July 2 letter, Ole requested an extension of the “consultation period”, so as to enable “a proper process of engagement with the mathematics discipline”. This did and does seem to us to have been a confused and unwise request,** but de Carvalho, by being even more confused and less wise, and foot-shootingly arrogant, made sure that it didn’t matter.
De Carvalho responded to Ole pretty much immediately, noting that there had already been “extensive engagement with teachers, curriculum experts and professional associations”, that July 8 meant July 8, and that was it. In brief: Ole and the mathematicians he represented could get stuffed.
Ever an optimist, Ole arranged for him and VP Geoff Prince to meet with ACARA representatives, which occurred on July 5. This meeting confirmed, according to Ole, that
“mathematical scientists were not involved in any official capacity in the preparation of the revised curriculum”
Other than that, Ole’s description of the meeting, and of AustMS’s current stance, is vague. In brief, it seems that AustMS was told to get stuffed. Again. The exchange of letters and Ole’s summary of the meeting can be read here.
We will make just one point, which we have made before. De Carvalho may be 100% correct in what he wrote, But. It. Doesn’t. Matter. One. Jot.
There is all manner of well-practised ways to game “consultation”, and it would be bridge-buying naive to not suspect ACARA of having done so. But suppose not? Suppose ACARA went out in good faith and consulted widely, and honestly and intelligently and knowledgeably considered the feedback? Doesn’t sound likely, but let’s suppose that’s all true. It doesn’t matter.
What matters is, however it happened, that Australian mathematicians are not remotely on board with the draft curriculum. With the distinguishable exception of Chris Matthews,*** we are unaware of a single Australian Mathematician who has come out publicly with anything remotely like support for the draft. By contrast, many mathematicians, including a number of very prominent mathematicians, have come out strongly, calling for the draft to be delayed or to be withdrawn entirely: in the open letter; in AMSI’s submission; and now in AustMS’s futile pleading for some belated sense.
In the face of such strong opposition from mathematicians, from the “subject matter experts“, for ACARA then to bulldoze on with its review is fingers-in-ears madness. Which is just what one would expect.
*) The professional body for Australian mathematicians. You know, those guys that know maths and stuff.
**) We know Ole pretty well, and have co-taught with him. He is a very strong mathematician and a great guy. Ole made a dumb move here, but he was doing what he thought best in a dumb-dumb-dumb situation.
***) Chris Matthews reportedly advised on the curriculum, seems to us to have made a mess of things, and his contribution requires serious discussion. It is better done elsewhere.