AMT’s Gender Fetishism

A few weeks ago, the Australian Intermediate Mathematics Olympiad took place. Administered by the Australian Maths Trust, the AIMO is a high level mathematics competition and serves as a testing ground for invitation to even higher level programs. It is a serious and important competition.

The AIMO paper is the creation of a committee, consisting mostly of volunteers. After this year’s paper was finalised, proofread and ready for the printer, AMT’s CEO, Nathan Ford, vetoed a question on the paper. This is the question that Ford vetoed:

There are 10 boys and 10 girls learning a traditional dance. They are to be arranged into 10 boy-girl pairs. To avoid height mismatches, each boy is assigned a number from 1 to 10 in ascending order of heights, and each girl is assigned a number from 1 to 10 in ascending order of heights. A boy may partner with a girl if and only if their numbers differ by no more than 1. For example, Boy 4 may partner with Girls 3, 4 or 5, but not 2 and not 6. How many ways can the boys and girls be partnered for this dance?

Regular readers can guess where this is going, but we’ll spell it out.

In an email to the chair of the AIMO committee, Ford noted his “concerns about the gender context” of the above problem:

“The expectations around gender contexts have changed significantly in society and amongst school leadership, teachers and students. As we serve these students and teachers, we need to be responsive and sensitive to these expectations.”

Ford then noted the existence of guidance for organisations such as AMT:

“For example, both the Australian Government and the Australian Council for Educational Research have issued specific guidance on presenting gender contexts.”

We shall pause to note that the Australian Government Style Manual to which Ford refers seems to have absolutely no bearing on the AIMO question at issue. As for the second document, it is strained to characterise it, as Ford does, as specific guidance issued by ACER; the document is simply a comment piece by one UK-based ACER research fellow. Moreover, as we have argued, this comment piece is utterly absurd, offering guidance for nothing more than an overtly political and highly perverse crusade.

Ford gave the AIMO committee chair the non-choice of either de-sexing the question himself, or of accepting a revised question that Ford and AMT employees had constructed. Here is the revised question that Ford presented, which, according to Ford, includes “an equivalent context which achieves the same goal while ensuring we are as inclusive as possible”:

Two local sports teams, the Tigers and the Lions, are coming together for some practice. There are 10 Tigers and 10 Lions. They are to be arranged into 10 Tiger–Lion pairs. To make the game as competitive as possible, we want to avoid height mismatches. So, each Tiger is assigned a number from 1 to 10 in ascending order of heights, and each Lion is assigned a number from 1 to 10 in ascending order of heights. A Tiger may be paired up with a Lion if and only if their numbers differ by no more than 1. For example, Tiger 4 may pair up with Lions 3, 4 or 5, but not 2 and not 6. How many ways can the Tigers and Lions be paired up?

The AIMO chair refused to change the original question, which he noted received “acclaim” from the more than a dozen people who vetted the AIMO paper, and which he argued was entirely unproblematic in terms of any gender issue. The chair also refused to endorse Ford’s replacement question, which he regarded as “artificial and confusing”. The chair also objected strongly to the manner and the timing of this demanded change to the AIMO paper.

It is fair to say that Ford ran roughshod over the chair’s concerns, and those of the writer of the original, vetoed question.* Ford barrelled through to include the revised question on the AIMO paper. To our knowledge, no one on the AIMO committee, excepting a single AMT employee, voiced either private or public support for Ford’s change. The chair and the question writer consequently disassociated themselves from the AIMO paper. The question writer, a long-standing and highly respected AIMO volunteer, was so upset by Ford’s contemptuous response that he resigned from the AIMO committee, and has also resigned from his other, paid work for AMT.

We emailed Ford, indicating that we were writing this post and offering Ford the opportunity to discuss the matter or to make a statement. This is Ford’s response, in its entirety:

“One of the 2023 AIMO problems was changed prior to the competition date. 

The change was contextual, not mathematical. 

It was made in the interests of inclusivity and in support of the diverse cohort of students and teachers the Trust serves.” 

Readers can make of this episode what they will, but our opinion should be obvious. We believe that there was zero argument to change the original question and that the revised question, while adequate, is clearly inferior. We believe Ford acted foolishly and arrogantly and rudely. It seems clear to us that Ford owes the AIMO committee, and the chair and the question writer in particular, a sincere apology. If Ford were not to provide this, we believe the AMT Board should then act accordingly.


*) Disclaimer: the question writer is a colleague and good friend of ours.

110 Replies to “AMT’s Gender Fetishism”

  1. Good grief! I cannot see what possible objection anyone can have to the question; the roles of the boys and girls are symmetrical. This begs the question of how someone like Ford got to be head of the Australian Mathematical Trust ; I must check with my contacts there. Actually it is a nice question and quite a shame it is not being used.

    I wonder whether it will be forbidden in future to use any questions at all that mention the words “man” “woman” or equivalents. I guess we always have dogs and cats.

    1. The problem is not symmetry, but the assignment of the binary tags „boy“ and „girl” as such, which is not „inclusive“.

      (Their thinking, not mine.)

          1. I have no objections to the question itself. However, writing questions like the original question is leading with your chin.

            1. For Christ’s sake. Terry, just for once can you stop it with your usual meandering style and answer the goddam questions?

              What do you mean by “objections like that”?

              What do you regard as the substance of Ford’s objection?

              What do you mean by “writing questions like the original question”?

              Just fucking say it. After you’ve fucking said it, then we can fucking discuss it.

              1. Here are my answers to your five question.

                1. I’ll try.

                2. By “objections like that” I mean objections like those suggested by Mr Ford (in green above). It seems that, in his view, the language was not inclusive enough.

                3. I am not convinced that it has any substantial merit. However, it was a predictable response.

                4. The original question was that vetoed by Mr Ford (in purple above).

                I hope that this clarifies things.

  2. Striking a balance between being sensitive to evolving expectations and ensuring that we don’t go to extremes where any word (including “lions” and “tigers”) might potentially offend someone should be simple.

    This particular instance seems overly cautious. Erasing “boys” and “girls” from the vernacular results in the exclusion of those who identify as these genders.

    In a world where exceptional educators are indeed hard to find, it’s crucial to engage in constructive dialogues about these matters rather than alienating or discouraging those who genuinely care about education. If I were the question writer I, too, would feel upset by these events.

    Focus should be on finding a balance between being considerate of changing norms and not stifling genuine contributions for the sake of being progressive.

    1. Thanks, MB, and too conciliatory. You cannot simply appeal to “changing norms” if these new norms are censorious and ludicrous.

      1. I agree.

        Additionally, Nathan Ford’s statement, “One of the 2023 AIMO problems was changed prior to the competition date,” leads me to argue that, without consulting the original question writer, the question was not merely altered but, rather, appropriated.

        Certainly, as you mentioned, a sincere apology is warranted.

        1. Thanks again, MB, and you make a very good point, which, for the sake of clarity, I decided not to emphasise in the post. The writer’s question was indeed appropriated, and against the express wishes of the writer.

          While here, I’ll make a couple further points.

          You wrote that the question-changing here was “overly cautious”. That way understates it, since there was zero reason to change the question. But also “cautious” is exactly the wrong word to describe the ad hoc changing of a competition question at the very last minute.

          You also wrote about kids “identifying as genders”. The question, however, has nothing to do with gender, whether or not one regards the the term “gender” as a coherent or useful concept(s). Sex is binary (and the question is fine even if it weren’t).

          1. Hi Marty,

            Thank you for bringing up these points. I agree that I used the incorrect terminology. I should have used “sex” instead of “gender.” I made an assumption (perhaps incorrectly) that the specific sensitivities regarding the original question concerned gender diversity.

            When I mentioned “overly cautious,” I was trying, though not very effectively, to describe Mr. Ford’s attempt to appease those he believed might have been offended by the original question.

            I’m not aware of the duration between the competition being “ready for the printer” and the actual competition day. If it was a very last-minute change, it indicates even more impulsiveness than I initially thought. Absolutely no concern or respect was shown towards his colleagues.

            1. Thanks, MB. Of course Ford was all about “gender diversity”, but that does not mean the original question had anything to do with gender.

              I believe the question was changed close enough to the last minute to have received no proper checking from the test Committee or the vettors.

              1. Edit – Ford doesn’t seem to have too much trouble referring to ‘boys and girls’ at his LinkedIn page.

        2. There are two things I really hate (actually there are many more but anyway):

          1. The misappropriation/misrepresentation of a question I write.
          2. The misappropriation/misrepresentation of a solution I write to the above question.

          I hope the AMT are left with no volunteers to write next year’s AIMO paper. (This won’t happen of course, because either the current people will care too much for that to happen or there will be any number of volunteers with delusions of adequacy).

          I assume this is the backstory to

  3. Sorting people by hight makes people perceived as female end up at the lower end. This is unacceptable. Therefore, the changed problem is actually more problematic (sexist and probably also racist) than the original one.

    (Their thinking, not mine.)

    (Well, actually it is my thinking. You cannot refute their arguments using reason and logic, because they are not based on reason and logic. But you can easily refute any argument they come up using their own method.)

    1. I’m not sure I understand your application of their thinking to the lions and tigers. Not that it matters much. Their application of their thinking to the boys and girls is the nonsense that matters.

  4. I don’t get the issue (and I do try to “get” the issue with questions that mention either sex or gender).

    My reasons include:

    1. The question in no way implies that there are only two genders and does not say that all the “boys” are “male” for example, it is a collection of 10 students, half of which are boys and half are girls. This in no way says there is no third gender and is therefore not excluding anyone.

    2. Even if I thought (I don’t) that the textbook question from the related WiTCH had a point, that point does not apply here.

    3. Arguing that a question on a rather-difficult-to-qualify-for mathematics paper is not “inclusive” seems a bit ironic… but maybe that is just me. (It often is)

    1. Thanks, RF. Your first point occurred to me too, but I couldn’t think of a good way of expressing it. You nailed it.

    1. Yes. Well said, Glen. It damages the virtue you’re inappropriately trying to signal and it certainly damages your own brand.

  5. Simple enough – the CEO is a generic bureaucrat. It is possible someone would have complained (especially to one of the funding bodies) about the question, hence the CEO takes action to ensure no one complains. Nothing to be surprised about here. Question writers are a dime a dozen (not to the same quality – but who will notice anyway), funding bodies are not. Doctors are not put in charge of hospitals, nor teachers in charge of Education Departments, nor mathematicians who might care in charge of the AMT. Welcome to the modern world.

    1. Possibly. Although my guess is that Ford also believes the nonsense he wrote. And, whether or not he believed it, whether or not someone might have complained, Ford (not alone) behaved badly and the entire thing was a debacle.

    2. Hi JJ,

      While I understand your perspective, I think it’s important to recognise the value of experienced and skilled question writers who volunteer for organisations like the AMT.

      While it may seem to you that question writers are abundant, those who can write questions at the level of the AIMO have expertise in crafting high-quality, fair, and challenging questions and play a significant role in the educational process.

      “Who will notice, anyway?”, you ask. The students.

      Students are directly affected by the quality of questions, they do notice the difference and they benefit from and appreciate well-crafted assessments.

      I sincerely hope that Nathan Ford, despite his recent behaviour, does not underestimate the impact that dedicated question writers have on educational standards and student learning.

      1. Hi Miss Brightside – I am certainly not defending the CEO – it is reprehensible behaviour – sorry I didn’t make it clear. As an ex-bureaucrat, I’m just trying to explain a risk-avoidance behaviour that can characterise bureaucracy and the perspective of some bureaucrats. Good bureaucrats treat experts with respect and engage appropriately (which from the email trail would appear not to be the case). (Note that I am commenting about the process, not the substance – others above have clearly identified the issues with the question).

        The real test here is what the Board do about it – their job should be to support the long term health of the AMT, which this episode would appear to endanger.

        1. Thanks, JJ. It’ll be interesting. Boards tend to knee jerk support their CEOs. But mathematicians tend to be *very* protective of their questions, and the AMT guys probably more than usual. And the CEO, going against convention and protocol and plain common sense, did so only to replace a very good question by a significantly worse question, for absolutely zero gain otherwise.

          It was appalling, the Board will know it is appalling, and the only question is how the principles and morals and courage and cowardice weigh out. I’m not willing to bet either way.

        2. Hi JJ,
          Thanks for your response. I understand and agree with your points on the manner in which some bureaucrats operate. Let us hope that the Board take appropriate action.

    3. Hi JJ, I agree with all you say. As for “who will notice” … plenty of people including students, teachers and mathematicians will notice. But whether they would care enough to cause enough trouble to force a back down …. Historically, in other contexts, I have not seen that happen. But there is a lot of passion in these competitions so maybe it would buck the trend

  6. You may well be right Marty – on further looking at the AMT website, I find this extraordinary quote on the AMT website under ‘About Us’ from someone who has no qualifications in the area as far as I can see. ‘Problem solving is the bridge from a student’s known world to an unfolding future filled with excitement, creativity and opportunity. The problems students solve today will lead them into a better future tomorrow.’: Nathan Ford, CEO. That’s certainly not the approach of a generic bureaucrat.

    I wonder if the CEO has briefed the Board on the issue and what their attitude would be.

    1. I am pretty sure, by one avenue or another, the Board will be well aware of this nonsense. I have no guesses what their attitude will be.

    2. It’s the approach of a generic bulltish artist.

      By the way, their LinkedIn page is extremely interesting to read and puts a lot of this into perspective.

  7. I am not condoning what Ford did. I expect nothing less from a career bureaucrat who thinks they know more than the mere mortals they lord it over.
    What I am acknowledging is that Terry has a point – sometimes it is better to anticipate and avoid potential controversy (particularly from those who love nothing more than creating controversy). I think the wording below achieves the aims of maintaining the integrity of the question and avoiding any possible controversy (even from those whose only wish is to create one) much better than Ford’s hamfisted (and inappropriate) effort:

    There are 20 people learning a traditional dance. 10 are wearing blue shirts and 10 are wearing red shirts. They are to be arranged into 10 blue shirt-red shirt pairs. To avoid height mismatches, each red shirt is assigned a number from 1 to 10, and each blue shirt is assigned a number from 1 to 10. A blue shirt may partner with a red shirt if and only if their numbers differ by no more than 1. For example, blue shirt 4 may partner with red shirt 3, 4 or 5, but not 2 and not 6. How many ways can the blue shirts and the red shirts be partnered for this dance?

    As I said, I am not condoning what Ford did. Yes, I know it seems to kowtow to the social warriors that love stirring up trouble. Yes, I expect a withering response(s). Nevertheless, I think it takes the oxygen from those idiots who see reds under the beds. I think it is a simple solution which I plan to adopt to avoid any controversy with idiots.

    1. If there is a past or present member of the Victorian public service on the panel, they may take issue with the phrase red shirts…

      1. Very good, RF.
        The moral of the story is that you can’t please everyone so you might as well make sure that you please yourself. Those who aren’t pleased can take a long jump off a short pier.

    2. OK, bit by bit.

      1. You think Terry has a point? Terry didn’t even have the balls to state his point.

      2 You think your rewording “maintains the integrity” of the original wording. The expression doesn’t mean much to me. The question is, is your version as clean as the original question? I don’t think it is even close.

      3. The second question is, even if your version, or some version, is as clean, so what? Why should anyone have to pretend that the terms “boys” and “girls” are not natural, meaningful and useful?

      4. You think “sometimes it is better to anticipate and avoid potential controversy”. Maybe “sometimes”, because who the hell knows what that means? But this time? I find the suggestion loathsome.

      I talked a *lot* to the writer after this happened, and they were genuinely distraught about the whole thing. Of course they knew there was a very good likelihood of pushback when they proposed the question, and since this has happened they have expressed self-doubts, whether they simply should have submitted a different version of the question, or a different question. And the answer is 100% no, and it demonstrates exactly why this stuff is so insidious: exactly because people start censoring themselves, and for the most absurd reasons.

      The writer was brave enough to stick to their principles, to not pervert or self-veto what they regarded, correctly, as a very good question, very naturally framed. But Terry denigrates the writer’s courage with his cheap “leading with your chin”, and you do the same with “avoid potential controversy”. Well, fuck you both.

      Fuck this environment, where everyone has to walk forever on eggshells because of this ludicrous, cultish concern with the self and “identity”, no matter how absurd its manifestation and no matter what ridiculous fucking hoops it makes everyone jump though.

      Was that sufficiently withering?

      1. First of all, I appreciate the amount of words (if not some of the language) that you’ve used. You surpassed my expectations. One could say you are the author of Withering Heights.

        1. Yes, I do think Terry has a point. I don’t need his point spelt out in neon lights to know what it is.

        2. I don’t know what you mean by “clean”. Furthermore, if I’m going to be quoted, I like to be quoted in context. I think the end phrase “much better than Ford’s hamfisted (and inappropriate) effort” adds missing context and is important. In my opinion.

        3. I unequivocally agree. No-one should “have to pretend that the terms “boys” and “girls” are not natural, meaningful and useful.” I wasn’t suggesting that.

        4. Yes, I do think “sometimes it is better to anticipate and avoid potential controversy”. I know that you will think that is out of character coming from me. As for what it means, it means whatever you like to think (or not think) it means.

        I appreciate that the writer is a friend of yours. I would be very disappointed if you weren’t very upset and very angry at what has been done to your friend. I am very sorry that your friend has expressed self-doubts. Maybe lost their confidence. Lost their desire to contribute to such competitions. I am truly sorry about this because volunteers enjoy what they do, they get great satisfaction from what they do. And I understand how my comments could be interpreted as supporting or reinforcing those doubts. One should never doubt being true to ones principles. And I agree that this stuff is insidious. Who would have thought that mathematics would become a battlefield over this and other stuff.

        I agree that the writer was brave and courageous. I think it’s very unfair to say that my comments denigrated their courage. But, as I have said on more than one occasion (and sometimes to my detriment), I can’t tell someone that what they feel is wrong. How a person feels is how a person feels.

        Marty, we all have principles. And when people ride roughshod over those principles, it is very upsetting. We then have decisions to make. Which can be a bitter experience when we know that our decision changes nothing. You should know that I feel for your friend more than most readers here could possibly know.

        Maybe an open letter can be organised and signed by everyone who feels upset and angry by what happened. Alternatively, people can be encouraged to send their own letter expressing their disgust at what has happened. As I commented earlier, Ford’s actions don’t just damage the AMT, they also damage the genuine issue of gender (not sex) identity. That is also a disgrace.

        Edit – Kevin Sheedy’s long-held explanation for anything untoward or mysterious, was to blame it on the ‘Martians’. Later on, it became his code word for criticising umpires. As he explained, “You could never, ever be fined when you’re talking about Martians. Everybody knows that things happen in footy that are unearthly and not fair. Only a Martian could pay some of those decisions.”

        I think we could have Martians and Venusians instead of boys and girls (or men and women, brothers and sisters). Everyone would know what was meant but there’s nothing that those who want to stir up controversy could do about it. I like to think it would leave them fuming with impotence. People like Ford would have an even harder time arguing against it. (Not that I think Ford’s current arguments have any credence). I think that would be making a strong point about the whole insane absurdity.

        1. Yes, everyone would know what was meant, because men are from Mars and women are from Venus, right? /s

          I find the idea of substituting “boy” and “girl” with covert terminology to, as you say, “anticipate and avoid potential controversy” quite perplexing.

          Could you please explain what you believe is problematic with the original wording of the question?

          1. MB, I don’t think BiB believes there anything problematic with the original question. Does anyone? Is anyone reading this post and the comments willing to claim such?

            I think BiB is arguing that: (a) the writer may have been better to have not chosen that hill to die on (while, like, Terry, refusing to attempt to define that hill); (b) there is an acceptable “maintaining integrity” alternative question. I, as I’ve made clear, disagree strongly with both suggestions.

            1. With all due respect, Marty, I don’t believe it’s possible for BiB (or anyone) to suggest ‘suitable’ alternatives to the original question while believing that the original question itself is not problematic. Hence, I would appreciate BiB explaining why a change of wording is necessary (whether that be a “ham fisted effort” or otherwise).

            2. Marty, you know I have chosen to die on a few hills. (So I’m speaking from beyond the grave). And that I rarely compromise. So I totally understand your friends situation.

              As for defining your friends hill – OK, let’s try and get it in the open:

              There is a lunatic fringe that sees everything as a gender issue. Boys and girls is not a gender issue but the lunatic fringe is trying to make it one. That’s the hill.

              The way I see it, there are parallels to creationists (or, to use the fancier pseudo-intellectual label, intelligent design) wanting equal footing with evolutionary theory. To anthropocene climate change denialists. To the gun lobbyists in America.

          2. Miss B, I have responded. The comment vanished. Check your inbox for my response.
            I think sending a letter of complaint to the AMT is more effective than further comments.

        2. A couple quick points.

          First, you, and others, may feel for the writer of the question, but no one other than Miss Brightside much expressed it.

          Secondly, you may not need (one of) Terry’s points spelled out in neon lights, but it is telling that no one is willing to spell it out at all. No one is willing to even attempt to give a coherent version of Ford’s objection. That is, of course, because there is no coherent version. But then there is something pretty Orwellian about suggesting supposedly acceptable alternatives without any framework for what made the original question unacceptable.

    3. I think the wording below achieves the aims of maintaining the integrity of the question:

      There are 10 boys and 10 girls learning a traditional dance. They are to be arranged into 10 boy-girl pairs. To avoid height mismatches, each boy is assigned a number from 1 to 10 in ascending order of heights, and each girl is assigned a number from 1 to 10 in ascending order of heights. A boy may partner with a girl if and only if their numbers differ by no more than 1. For example, Boy 4 may partner with Girls 3, 4 or 5, but not 2 and not 6. How many ways can the boys and girls be partnered for this dance?

      1. It’s aim (singular) not aims (plural). And you only \displaystyle think that it does …? Why the doubt? I’m certain it does because it’s the same question. I don’t understand why you would simply repeat the question.

          1. Clearly neither of us understands sarcasm.

            (For the record, I interpreted the comment as trying to be smart rather than reiterating the point. Otherwise “The question was fine as it was” would have been sufficient. Moreover, it looks like some people are happy to ignore my context of “much better than Ford’s hamfisted (and inappropriate) effort” and are on a hair trigger to misunderstand).

          2. More accurately, it is to reiterate the point that the only way to maintain the integrity of the original question is to maintain the original question.

    4. Sure, why not self-censor ourselves to ‘avoid the potential controversy of mentioning boys and girls’? What else should we stop mentioning and start editing to satisfy people like Nathan Ford?

  8. I checked with someone who was involved in AMT to get his take, and his conjecture essentially supports JJ in that the objection to the question might have come from someone on the board. He also suggested that if it had been done in his day, said objector would have been told to take a walk. Admittedly, this might have need a dollop of courage, but some people are better at facing the bureaucrats down than others.

    For those of you who have not been involved in the process, it is not an easy matter to make up a suitable problem for a student contest; good problem setters do not grow on trees. You need a committee that includes a variety of perspectives, especially that of the teachers to make sure that the problem is clear, it elicits the intended procedures, the level of reasoning is appropriate to the age and grade of the pupils, the difficulty is properly calibrated and it does not take the solvers into some kind of algebraic or numerical swamp that wastes their time. Sometimes, opinions can be quite strong making a consensus difficult and you just end up taking a vote. Multiple choice problems can be quite treacherous because the distractors are not easy to create (either there are too many or too few credible ones) and you are not sure that the student is solving the problem in the intended way; there are often a number of dodges available to the enterprising candidate (but maybe you want to test their recourse to them). So I would put a very high premium on not alienating members of the problems team.

    1. Thanks very much, Ed. Without wishing to sideline the important points you make, I’ll note that I’m about 90% sure that the objection did not come from someone on the Board.

  9. With all due respect, Marty, I don’t believe it’s possible for BiB (or anyone) to suggest ‘suitable’ alternatives to the original question while believing that the original question itself is not problematic. Hence, I would appreciate BiB explaining why a change of wording is necessary (whether that be a “ham fisted effort” or otherwise).

    1. Hi, MB. It’s up to BiB, but I disagree. If someone doesn’t like frogs, they might object to a question about frogs. We may think this is completely absurd, but we can still attempt to reframe the question to not include frogs. For various reasons I don’t believe Ford’s objection to “boys” and “girls” should be, or can properly be, so pandered to, but one can still contemplate doing so.

  10. At the risk of inflaming a heated debate, I note that mathematics and language are human constructs (though I did wonder when studying pure maths whether maths was part of the fabric of the universe but that’s another debate) and operate in the context of a society and all its (often crazy) politics. The question of how far to push against existing currents is one that even Galileo dealt with.

    Terry has a very valid point and subtlety and ambiguity are an essential part of human discourse and peaceful interaction (check out the status of Taiwan if you disagree). In our times, even using boy and girl is loaded. If not for some students who are very very strong on the matter, then for some activists on Twitter or for a combination. It’s not right and it won’t be so forever but it is what it is now. It is valid for a CEO to have concerns for their organisation’s reputation as part of their role of managing in a complex environment.

    As an ex-bureaucrat, I note that it is so often the case that when the process fails, it all falls apart. Let me suggest an alternative process……..

    CEO considers the formulation of the question could pose risks to AMT. CEO rings Board Chair and discusses concerns and proposes that he contact the question writer to discuss matter. Depending on Board Chair’s view of next steps, CEO arranges to meet in person (if possible) and by Zoom if not to discuss matter. CEO emphasises excellence of question mathematically, difficulty in preparing good questions etc etc but notes what might happen if a student complained. CEO outlines concerns and checks if question writer has been in schools lately and understands modern context (refers question writer to materials such as if necessary).

    If question writer does not agree to alter question to minimise risk, arranges for further consultation with Board, communications experts etc. CEO develops process to work through issue with question writer and colleagues to bring about some form of consensus (hopefully agreeing to put that specific question on hold until matter resolved more broadly).

    Once resolved, CEO initiates some form of process to avoid such issues in future.

    1. JJ, very well said. You could probably summarise most of this with five words: Showing respect to the writer. I doubt any of that happened in the case this blog highlights. Which is a separate and reprehensible issue that demands an explanation.

      I think the crux of the matter is your observation that “even using boy and girl is loaded”. Such usage should not be loaded. Again, it boils down to fringe activists trying to make something like this a gender issue when it’s not. And a CEO that enables these fringe activists (in an extremely disrespectful way). I wonder how much hurt the writer has suffered as a result of all this and whether that hurt is more or less than any hurt “10 boys and 10 girls” might have caused.

      1. From memory there was a question (meant to be about logic or similar) pre 2000 that mentioned knights and knaves.

        There was also one about Frogs always telling the truth and Toads always telling a lie, but that may have been a UK paper from around the same time.

        In neither case do I suspect the writer of the question was suggesting that everyone could be divided into the two categories, but perhaps they chose Frogs and Toads instead of Boys and Girls because they were ahead of their time.

        1. Ah … the traditional dance of the Frogs and Toads. Where’s Sir David Attenborough when we need him.

          (“In neither case do I suspect the writer of the question was suggesting that everyone could be divided into the two categories” – That’s an excellent point by the way, RF).

            1. I do appreciate the attempt Terry and perhaps somewhere, someone reading this blog may use your idea.

              I don’t think it does much for the original argument though – just because the question writer could have used Knights and Knaves in place of Boys and Girls does not in any way mean that one is better (or more appropriate) than the other.

  11. We should be grateful to Marty for raising this issue.

    It seems almost impossible (even for moderately like-minded spirits) to discuss it intelligently. But that is precisely why it needs to be raised. And then raised again. And again. And (if necessary) again.

    My conclusion after nearly eight decades, is that the 1930s in Germany were not that unusual. Nasty things happen every day. Mostly, one hopes they will just go away. So we (mostly) do nothing; and they mostly do go away. But perhaps they only go away when someone *else* cares enough to risk being ridiculed for being willing to “die on that particular hill”. And perhaps, once most of us slip into the habit of looking the other way or finding short term workarounds, it gets harder and harder to stop the rot.

    Throughout this discussion we have caught occasional glimpses of the delicate balance between the creative question setter, the managing bureaucracy, and (in the background, out of sight) the Board.

    Society needs bureaucrats; but they are replaceable. So in an outfit like AMT, the bureaucrats need to learn to *listen* to those who create the only thing that justifies the outfit’s existence. And the Board needs to understand and manage this delicate balance.

    The miracle of the AMT (and of other similar outfits) is the way certain volunteers, who are paid nothing, lay golden eggs, and make them available to the rest of us. They are not “creative” like those in ad agencies, who are so well paid that they are willing to adjust in the light of whatever quibbles a client may express. Rather, they enjoy providing ordinary students and teachers with sight of the kind of mathematical gems that would otherwise remain out of sight. And they do this by taking something abstract, and wrapping it in a way that engages potentially interested students. This skill is a pearl of great price. It is the most precious raw material outfits like the AMT have; and those who generate this material need to be nurtured and treasured. (AMT also needs staff to manage the operation; and it needs to value such staff. But, in comparison, they are easier to come by.)

    JJ’s proposed “process” misses the point. Creative setters choose their words with care. It is not for the setter to “agree to changes”: they are part of a *collective* which finalises the paper. Such groups often consider possible changes, and, once setters understand how a proposed change will improve the question, they are (in my experience) astonishingly flexible.

    The problem here is that the change was not intended to improve the impact of the question. The reasons given for the change are of a kind that is on the increase, that are far from harmless, and that present themselves as essentially unanswerable.

  12. Thanks for commenting, Tony. Indeed, every ‘hill right now is a place to die’ if merely mentioning boys and girls is considered offensive.

  13. Thanks for your very thoughtful and helpful post Tony.

    A few further reflections from me….

    If I’ve understood you correctly, I should probably clarify my ‘process’. The role of the bureaucrat is not to participate in the question formulation process or drive specific changes (except where it arises naturally in discussion with the setter). The role is to listen, investigate and reflect back to the Board (and potentially the setter) the possible impact of the question on the organisation more broadly. To elucidate a little: my relevant experience as a generic bureaucrat was with doctors and clinicians, whose terrain was very clear. The bureaucrat’s role in my case was to facilitate a process to get funding/deliver a project. Part of the discussion toolkit and used subtly, were phrases like ‘what would Treasury/Minister etc etc think of this’. Bureaucrats of course try to influence outcomes, but their fundamental role is to enable things to happen smoothly and resolve conflict.

    I have no idea whether this issue is sufficiently risky that the setter should even have been approached – my bureaucrat’s ‘nose’ would however have told me it was worth investigating. However, I would have expected the CEO to have led a process by which the Board essentially made that call before the question setter was even approached.

    As you say, bureaucrats are replaceable (less so for good ones – in the vein of 1930s Germany, it was Adenauer who retained Nazi bureaucrats as part of his goal to build a democratic country). Question setters are more than essential – as you say they are the raison d’etre. On the basis of what has been described here, it’s clear who should go.

    Bureaucracy is a necessary (but unfortunately ever more prevalent) evil, and good governance noted mainly in its absence, as appears here.

    The best course I ever did in the public service was Cranlana – a week of essentially philosophy discussing Perspectives on the Good Society. The course began and ended with a story from Ursula Le Guin about a town whose entire wellbeing depends on the extreme suffering of an individual child. And of course the question was posed to each of us at the beginning and end of the course of what we should do.

    My personal view is that this is one of those issues which will go away and which the powerful are not particularly using to their own ends (of course, it is causing considerable suffering, including to young people). My own greater concern would be other less directly obvious worrying trends in our society (including growing educational inequality and power imbalances, including bellwethers in politics and the bureaucracy such as the Australian Robodebt). (But then as a bureaucrat, my own concerns would not be of particular importance).

    As the Board’s agent, it is the role of the CEO to assist the Board to ‘understand and manage this delicate balance’. To which I would add ‘consider and debate’. I don’t know what the AMT Board is like but Australian boards in general are not noted for their high quality.

    Badly managed processes cause conflict and bring in boards at the wrong time. The AMT board appears to be a mix of bureaucrats and mathematicians – a very interesting discussion to be had indeed.

    1. Thanks, JJ. I’m sorry, the first version of your comment went to spam (as did Tony’s comment). I assume you are fine(r) with this second version. I’ll reply to both of you soon.

    2. Thanks, JJ, and I don’t buy any of it.

      You wrote above that “Terry has a very valid point”, and this pisses me off just as much every time. If Terry has a valid point, then why cannot someone state the point?

      Declaring “even using boy and girl is loaded” is not making the point.

      Yes, one point is that there are gang of Red Guard fanatics willing to scream blue murder at any hint of biological reality. But then, if there is no substance to these screams, if there is no coherent argument to which to respond, and there is not, then the only point here is that there are Red Guard fanatics demanding the acceptance of perverting nonsense, in which case it is poisonous and self-defeating to attempt to placate them. You, and everyone pretending there is some “subtlety and ambiguity” here, is giving license to these assholes to continue their assholing.

      You talk about about the poor CEO, and how “It is valid for a CEO to have concerns for their organisation’s reputation as part of their role of managing in a complex environment”. Nonsense. The terms “concerns” and “reputation” and “complex environment” are the kind of vague, muddying expressions that bureaucrats love because they can mean anything, and because they can be used to justify anything. It’s exactly the kind of language that pretty much guarantees that a CEO, even your mythical intelligent, “delicate balance” CEO, is gonna screw this up.

      I don’t want to talk generalities. I want to talk about the use of the terms “boys” and “girls” in the above question. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the use of these terms. Nothing. No one here is claiming otherwise, except that there is a *perception* by *some* that there is something wrong.

      This is, really, madness.

  14. Hi Marty

    I wish it were that simple. How about this for a plausible concrete scenario in the modern environment where rational discussion can be very hard to reach? Others can advise if I am being unrealistic, but even if it has a 10% chance of happening, would you take the risk?

    Teacher has strident gender inclusive student in class. A number of other students in class use ‘they/them’ personal pronouns. Strident student has parents passionate about inclusion.
    Teacher decides to use question as drafted. Considerable debate takes place in class about exclusion of non-binary persons. Lots of maths class time lost to discussion/argument. Complete lack of focus on intended topic. Other students’ work considerably impacted by upheaval. In subsequent lessons, hostile atmosphere in class with student(s) asking to be moved to another maths class.

    Meanwhile parents have complained to school and department. Emails and meetings galore. Principal eventually says to teacher (who fortunately has good relationship with because otherwise who knows what would have happened). ‘Did you really have to use this problem? I’ve spent days on the phone, I’ve still got replies to write to the department, we’ve got to consult and rewrite our Inclusion policy and it’s got a way to go – who knows what the next School Council meeting will be like – I’ve already been asked if you are worth keeping as head of maths and so far it’s cost me a week of my life, not to mention all the associated stress’.

    Now for the AMT – multiply this by whatever factor you like, given the profile and number of students involved and add in a possible Twitter storm, bringing in universities, partners and potentially politicians.

    I’ll leave it to others to judge if I am being unrealistic.

    As a teacher, I am constantly making judgements about what to pick up on, let through to the keeper or head off at the pass. This is one on which as a teacher, I’d probably pass on.

    In Sir Humphrey’s language, this could be called ‘courageous’.

    On a lighter note watch ‘Seven Periods with Mr Gormsby’ from 2005 – couldn’t be made now but is very very funny and relevant.

    1. Not interested. We are talking about AMT. If there is one prominent educational organisation that can simply ignore the Red Guards, it is AMT.

  15. I heard that recently Mr Ford contacted the AMT staff and volunteers and mentioned a blog post that contained “misinformation” about the AMT. Then I started searching and came across this blog.

    I believe it is Mr Ford’s authoritarian managerial style. Sometimes he makes decisions in ways that are disrespectful towards key contributors and volunteers. [edit] Another story I heard [edit] is that Mr Ford changed the title of one of the AMT’s key training programs, Maths for Young Australians, without consulting with its Chair and Founder.

    Another incident happened with the Tournament of Towns last year, AMT used to run this competition in Australia. A year ago Mr Ford issued a statement to all AMT staff and State Directors, ordering them not to engage with this competition in any way, not even use its problems for training. That happened without prior consultation or even informing the local organising committee of the tournament. I believe, that issue was discussed at the last AGM of the Olympiad Committee. At least, it is presented in its papers.

    1. I emailed Ford a second time, with the final draft of the above blog post, giving him a second opportunity to make a comment and/or to discuss the issue before publishing. Ford did not reply.

    2. JJ is trying really hard.

      But he is struggling to carry water in a sieve. In particular, he seems determined to miss what I took to be the basic point:
      * To set a problem about integers is not thereby to undervalue, or to discriminate against
      * complex numbers, or against Euclidean Geometry.

      We routinely remain silent about things that are not pertinent. This is not a slight.

      So, there is no “exclusion of non-binary persons”. And anyone who perceives such “exclusion” has lost the plot. (This is how I understood Marty’s “This is madness”.)

      There are serious issues lurking in the shadows that warrant discussion. But one cannot have such a discussion with someone whose initial salvo is so fanciful. (More damaging is the fact that, if discussion is attempted in the context of such apparent madness, then it becomes impossible to focus rationally: everything is instantly polarised. And this often seems to be a ploy, rather than being incidental, or merely unfortunate.)

      It brings to mind the jealous wife, who had reason to suspect her husband of philandering. After weeks of suppressed tension, she greeted him on the doorstep one evening, and, after the customary peck on the cheek, moved to flick something off his coat collar.
      “What is it darling?” he asked.
      “Nothing! That’s the problem. There’s nothing there.”
      She then burst into tears, muttering:
      “Now you’re going out with *bald* women!”

      1. Hear, Hear!!! Quote of the day, at least for me! “To set a problem about integers is not thereby to undervalue, or to discriminate against complex numbers, or against Euclidean Geometry.”.

        1. We all agree. We all agree that there is no issue with “boys and girls” and it is sheer insanity to claim that there is. But I will risk (extreme) ire yet again by saying that people are not numbers and so the “Quote of the day” analogy is flawed (in my opinion).

          We all agree that there is not an issue with “boys and girls”. But there is an issue. The issue is when activists see an issue. What to do?
          1) Anticipate and attempt to head it off at the pass so that the activist never gets a chance to be an agitator, or
          2) Do nothing. But react when an activist inevitably does fabricate a fictitious issue and then applies pressure, or
          3) stand firm in the face of 1) or 2). Show support and trust in your hardworking volunteers (without whom you have nothing).

          Ford chose 2). And did so in an extremely disrespectful way.

          This is the second issue I want to raise. The disrespectful treatment of the writer and the culture this suggests. The allegations made by Bob and the silence received by Marty, together with the treatment of the writer, paints an extremely unflattering picture of the culture at the AMT.

          By the way, if we’re quoting from Tony G, my favourite is:

          “Society needs bureaucrats; but they are replaceable. So in an outfit like AMT, the bureaucrats need to learn to *listen* to those who create the only thing that justifies the outfit’s existence. And the Board needs to understand and manage this delicate balance.
          The miracle of the AMT (and of other similar outfits) is the way certain volunteers, who are paid nothing, lay golden eggs, and make them available to the rest of us.”

          You could replace AMT with any number of other organisations in the above quote (and replace “nothing” with ‘next to nothing’) and what Tony says would be just as true.

          @Bob: Any idea whether Ford gave specific examples about the sort of “misinformation” about the AMT he claimed was contained in “a blog post”?

          1. Your question to Bob is excellent. Ford had an opportunity to correct anything. Of course he may have been (justifiably or not) pissed off enough to not think it worth replying, which would be fine (sort of). But I tried very hard to be accurate and clear, and I am not aware of anything in the post that is incorrect.

          2. “But I will risk (extreme) ire yet again by saying that people are not numbers, and so the “Quote of the day” analogy is flawed (in my opinion).”

            The point of the comment isn’t analogy but rather the fact that if one doesn’t mention something not pertinent to the problem/situation, it doesn’t mean that one ignores it.

          3. No, he did not. He did not even mention this blog, just said that recently there was a post in a publicly available blog about the trust and warned everyone to be very careful when revealing an internal communication within the trust to the public. This is the only post that I found which matches that description.

  16. Here’s a maliciously compliant statement:

    “To prepare for the annual egg-hatching festival, 10 hens and 10 roosters are learning a traditional dance. They are to be arranged into 10 hen-rooster pairs. To avoid size mismatches…”

    (I believe there isn’t much ongoing debate about the genders of chickens.)

  17. Come on Marty some people, as it appears, have a problem calling a boy boy and a girl girl let alone calling a shit shit.

    1. Dr M. I don’t think anyone commenting here has that problem. I hope you’re not suggesting otherwise. I think we all agree that there is nothing wrong with using “boys and girls”. Many of the comments are motivated by the problem that activists have a problem and how this should be handled (or not handled). In my opinion this is a genuine problem despite the fact that there should not be any problem at all.

      And JJ’s example of “Teacher has strident gender inclusive student in class …” is a genuine problem that teachers face (or will soon face. I think it is (or will be) more than 10% likely). It doesn’t go away by saying that there shouldn’t be a problem. If your job is potentially on the line (as it could easily be if you have a weak Principal that does not back their staff and is more concerned with ‘optics’) what are you going to do.

      I don’t want to be accused of being an apologist for what was done. I’m not. I think what was done is terrible. But I would like to raise another ‘hypothetical’ as a follow on from JJ:
      You show the question to one of your students. You have an excellent relationship with that student. The student says that they find the question hurtful. You do your best to explain to the student that it isn’t.
      a) Are you implicitly telling the student that their feelings don’t matter?
      b) Do you use the question anyway?
      c) Do you compromise because you can see it upsets the student and it’s no skin off your chin whether you use boys and girls or Martians and Venusians?

      You go ahead with the original question. The student turns on you. They feel betrayed. They complain to the school. Or Region DET. Or the DET. It becomes a mess.

      Don’t tell me that this can’t happen. It can. And in other contexts it has. Many times.

      These are real dilemmas that real teachers are facing. I don’t think it’s helpful to make the issue black and white. Teachers are going to be damned if they do and damned if they don’t. The ‘damned if they do’ probably has more practical consequences than the ‘damned if they don’t. The consequences of the latter are simply to be told you’re weak or an apologist or you’re wrong.

      I’m not condoning or rationalising what Ford did. I would never do what Ford did. But in the scenario above I would choose option c). If that makes me unpopular with everyone here, so be it. Bring on the pitchforks.

      (Don’t ask me what I’d do if another student expressed similar feelings if I did NOT use the question).

      1. I understand your trepidations; however, this is why people like Marty speak about it openly. Some people speak on their blogs, and others do on other forums. The only thing we can do is to speak out on any forum we can.
        The questions you are asking me are tactical responses to a strategic problem. I can’t tell or advise what one should do in this or the other situation. It all depends on the person in question. Some would choose to speak up even if they threatened to lose their job.
        and this
        Some people might decide to play on and help students identify as cats

        There are many different situations and choices. You should choose for yourself.

      2. Once again, I don’t care here about other scenarios. I care about AMT.

        JJ couldn’t argue AMT so they argued something else. So are you.

        AMT screwed up. Ford screwed up. Done.

  18. There is great agreement here on this blog – particularly that the situation was very very badly handled by the AMT.

    And I totally agree with two of Tony’s comments, but perhaps not in the way he intended:

    “There are serious issues lurking in the shadows that warrant discussion. But one cannot have such a discussion with someone whose initial salvo is so fanciful. (More damaging is the fact that, if discussion is attempted in the context of such apparent madness, then it becomes impossible to focus rationally: everything is instantly polarised.”

    “… there is no exclusion of non-binary persons. And anyone who perceives such exclusion has lost the plot.”

    These quotes describe the modern world so well. Everything is instantly polarised. It has lost the plot!

    Let me explain.

    On this blog, reasoned respectful discussion takes place (100 comments so far!). I am arguing that that is very different from the world in which modern politics (and the AMT) operates. It is a world of tribes, more akin to the Cultural Revolution than reasoned discussion. And social media has brought much of this about (like any technology, it has rewired our brains). In addition to what I see, I draw upon the work of John Robb who draws upon Marshall McLuhan.

    It is a world of tribes in which you are with us or against us. This is a world in which a US President can be kicked off Twitter (and then have a realistic chance of election again), in which the US Speaker can be voted out by his own party for the first time in US history, in which a Royal Commission can recommend the closure of special schools and many more crazy examples. Individuals can be cancelled very easily (and since we are all so digitally connected, that’s becoming more and more serious).

    The people on this blog are probably more acquainted with the situation in universities. Can you seriously argue that academic freedom has the power it did or that they are exempt from this madness?

    I’m afraid I fundamentally disagree with Marty “If there is one prominent educational organisation that can simply ignore the Red Guards, it is AMT.” I’m sorry but no organisation is exempt, just as no one could escape in China at the time. You need to know the landscape to survive. Read the names of the AMT’s ‘Partners and Collaborators’. Understand that what happens on Twitter has considerable effect in the real world.

    I argue that it is the CEO’s job to protect the wonderful question setters from the awful modern political environment and enable the AMT to continue to operate. Let me be clear – I do not agree with the way it was done.

    I used the school example because that is one I know currently. BiB as the only commenter to engage on the issue agrees with its realism.

    I did not describe the AMT situation as I no longer work in the environment AMT operates in. If I still did, I’d have had an off the record chat with the department’s communications manager about a realistic assessment of the social media risks. So I don’t know (and no one on this blog appears to be in that position to know), but based on what I’ve seen I suspect the risk is very real.

    Remember that bureaucrats watch Utopia as a documentary. Oh for the days when Yes Minister was more accurate! But the world has changed and leaders have to respond to how it is, not how it was or how they would like it.

    Let me finish with what I think is a more appropriate quote “When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’ ’The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’ ’The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.”

    If we are to be master, we must know the terrain and act accordingly.

    If anyone does know someone who runs an organisation in such an environment, I’d be interested to hear their views.

  19. My thanks to JJ and BiB. I seem to have (half?)misunderstood.

    It was not at all clear to me that we were (all?) agreed. But I am happy to proceed as though there is a basic shared view that:
    (i) there can be no rational objection to such questions (which is not to say that a certain sensitivity is not needed) ;
    (ii) in any world, bureaucrats are there to protect the shared values and “the geese that lay the golden eggs”.

    As far as I understand anything, the problem then becomes:
    * How should (or must) one adjust in a world where “activists” can be over-sensitive, in order to protect those parts of life/culture/civilisation that really matter?

    This question has two parts: a personal one (How should *I* adjust?) and a corporate/communal one (How should *we* as a community adjust?).
    The two answers may be different. (I may simply choose to “ignore the Red Guards”, and to pay the price. But I now interpret BiB and JJ as reminding us that any community of which each of us is a small part has wider responsibilities.)

    All this makes sense in normal times.

    But do we live in normal times? Who can be sure?
    The choice of how to respond has to be made in real time; and one can clearly discern the level of abnormality only in retrospect.

    So people choose to interpret things differently.

    The temptation is often to try to adjust, and pretend the problem will go away.
    Society is messier than mathematics; but it is my experience that there are almost always clear markers for those with eyes to see. However, we can never be quite sure that we are not misconstruing: ‘the proof of the pudding’ is generally much further down the line; by which time ‘the waters have been suitably muddied’; so people still disagree about how ‘the tail should have been pinned on the donkey’ (or even what constituted the “tail”, and whether it *was* a donkey).

    We all depend on talented administrators who can see a way to navigate difficulties: but if business is to continue more-or-less as usual, a key part of this navigation is to keep “the geese that lay the golden eggs” onside.

    Of course, there are times when mere survival becomes a primary objective, so that upholding things that are culturally important – such as mathematics, education, etc. – may have to be done in coded form and in private.
    But as long as such activities remain *public*, one cannot escape the need to challenge, to re-educate, and if necessary to confront, bullshit (rather than to appease the bullshitters, and hence to lend them credibility).

    1. Thanks for your words Tony. I live by a simple rule that I formulated for myself: ‘Make sure that pathology doesn’t become normality’.
      It applies to everything not only gender related questions.

      1. The trouble with simple rules is that they can sometimes ride roughshod over complex situations. Who decides what the pathology is? Who decides what normality is? (I suppose the individual following the ‘simple rule’ decides for themselves …?)
        And only a psychologist or a teacher (who’s following what’s currently happening with SEAS applications, for example) might understand that the ‘simple rule’ cuts both ways:
        Make sure that normality is not pathologised …
        Where does that leave us?

        I ask this solely out of curiosity – Dr M, are you a teacher at a school?

        1. The trouble with appealing to “complex”, as you and JJ do, is it a cheap, unanswerable way to ignore the simple. If something is supposedly complex, state the complexities and let’s see.

          I see absolutely nothing complex for AMT in this situation.

        2. I used to teach A levels for several years. I worked for a long period of time in university.
          Splitting complexities into chunks makes things much simpler.
          Getting back to basics also helps to reduce complexity.
          Also the situation with AMT isn’t complex.

          Fais се que dois, advienne que pourra

          1. I agree the AMT situation is not complex. I was going off-topic and commenting more generally. I know the blog and many comments have a laser focus on the AMT. I think the situation generalises and I think the generalisation is less black and white (with apologies to other skin colours, I’m not suggesting a binary choice) than it is with the AMT and can be treated a lot better than how Ford did.

            En effet.

            1. I understand that how one handles the Red Guards depends much upon the situation. There are directives, and even laws, that govern and constrain how a school can respond. And schools are more directly in the firing line, of whiny, idiotic parents of all stripes.

              It’s fine if you want to discuss this. But I do not, and I won’t have the simplicity of AMT’s situation be confused by the complexity, whatever it might be, of the more general issue.

              This is always an angry blog but, in this instance, I am furious beyond measure. And not just at Ford. I will maintain my laser focus.

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