AAS Fellows Were Apparently Not Consulted in the Signing of the Joint Statement

A couple of days ago we wrote about the Australian Academy of Science squirming away from the March 31 joint statement, which they had signed. AAS effectively claimed that the joint statement was mere motherhooding on problem-solving, and “was not in response to” the draft curriculum.

AAS’s clarification wan’t much of a clarification; it was vague and evasive, made little sense on its own terms, and left plenty unexplained, In particular, there was no explanation of how AAS signed on to the joint statement or why, and whether NCMS – the body within AAS responsible for mathematics education policy – was consulted or had approved the signing.

In the past months, we have had many discussions about AAS and the joint statement. One person, who we understand to be truthful and to have a reasonably reliable sense of what happened, has given us the picture. In brief, and to quote them:

“the signing [of AAS onto the the joint statement of March 31] was by educational/administrative people within the AAS, and without consultation with fellows with expertise in the mathematical sciences.” [emphasis added]

We forwarded this exact quote to AAS, and provided AAS with ample opportunity to respond, to deny or to clarify the quote, or simply to indicate that they will respond in due course. AAS declined to acknowledge our email in any manner. As such, and until AAS provides some plausible correction, it seems reasonable to take the quotation as a statement of fact.

What the quotation implies is that the “Australian Academy of Science” having signed the joint statement has the rough authoritative value of the Shepparton Grammar Gazette.* As to why AAS is comfortable with this state of affairs and refuses to correct and clarify the record, and what mathematician fellows of AAS think of all this, one would have to ask them.


*) Such an evaluation would seem reasonable for any statement attributed to “AAS”. As it stands, we can see no way to determine whether any “AAS statement” has received the proper consideration of AAS’s deservedly respected fellows, or is merely the random thoughts of a random employee. Such an “academy statement” appeared in a woefully bad SMH column on July 8, responding to AMSI’s submission. (Guys, it’s pure optimism to expect you to do your job well, but you could at least think about the meaning of “maths experts”.) We have endeavoured to determine what the AAS statement means, and who within AAS wrote and/or approved the statement; AAS has not acknowledged our questions. As such, and until we receive any proper clarification, we regard the “AAS statement” within the SMH article to be of approximately zero value.

9 Replies to “AAS Fellows Were Apparently Not Consulted in the Signing of the Joint Statement”

  1. Thanks for this update, Marty. It is surprising and yet unsurprising.

    I say unsurprising because the terrific letter Tony Guttman submitted to ACARA, and his signing of the open letter to ACARA, got me thinking at the time that these (particularly the former) might be the actions of an individual who has doubts that their own professional organisation will be united and courageous enough to make its own strong submission.

    I think it’s fair to say that “who within AAS wrote and/or approved the statement” will remain a mystery comparable to who authorised the private security arrangements for el hotel quarantino last year. They know who they are, they know that they totally screwed up, and they know that they will look like a total incompetent unless they keep their identity covered up.

  2. When it comes to this sort of thing, reporters, politicians etc. are as ignorant and uniformed as the general public. They all equate “mathematics educator” with “mathematics expert”. It is a huge con job perpetrated on the general public. And when the “mathematics educator” has a PhD, the con job is complete.

  3. Thanks again Marty, this is quite rotten in my opinion. It is an assumption that any statement officially by the AAS has been approved by the relevant fellows, so this throws into question what exactly statements or comment from the AAS even means.

    If it means nothing, then it should be removed. I don’t think it is anywhere near good enough to just shrug and say “hey, politics” or something. No, Australia has a huge issue with the mixing of science and politics already, so when an organisation that represents science makes comments and signs statements without even consulting their fellows, that needs to be called out. Loud and in public. This is not good enough.

  4. I am not surprised in the least. As a secondary teacher of mathematics, I’d like to see an improvement in the way the discipline is taught and assessed. Instead, all I see is a continual decline in both. Go Marty. Keep calling it out

    1. Terry, consultation of the ‘rank and file members’ of an organisation is a very different kettle of fish to consultation of members of a ‘specialist body’ set up within that organisation.

      As a side observation, it’s very hard to sign a joint statement without some sort of (informal or otherwise) communication having taken place between the parties involved …

  5. I have decided to delete the recent comment chain here, including my own comments. It was too difficult a mix of declaration and speculation.

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