Many months ago, and many months too late, we submitted an FOI application, seeking documents from ACARA. We were interested in the origins of the statement Why Maths Must Change, signed onto by five prominent mathematics and mathematics education organisations in support of ACARA’s draft mathematics curriculum. We had previously written of our sea-bed low opinion of the statement, but we had also been puzzled by aspects of the statement. In particular, although WMMC has no declared link to ACARA, and although ACARA has to our knowledge never made any public reference to the statement, we had suspected that ACARA was involved in the production of WMMC.
No, we’re not intending to go into this. Our concern is with the parallel nonsense of indigenous mathematics, about which we’ll be writing in the near future. But this stuff has to be noted, and someone should be hammering it. Aren’t there some active scientists around who are just a little perturbed?
Yep, ACARA hates algorithms. That may come as a surprise, since ACARA evidently loves the word “algorithm”; it appears fifty-seven times in the draft curriculum. They love something. But it’s not algorithms.
On July 8, AMSI released its submission to ACARA, in which AMSI called for a halt of the mathematics curriculum review. On July 20, ACARA contacted AMSI, requesting a “consultation session” with AMSI, to enable ACARA “to address [AMSI’s] concerns”. That meeting was held on August 17. Prior to the meeting, ACARA forwarded to AMSI an agenda, together with a long document, Elaboration to Agenda Items. This Elaboration document amounted to a written response to AMSI’s submission, effectively a defense of ACARA’s draft mathematics curriculum.
The purpose of this post is to critique ACARA’s defense as presented in the Elaboration document. ACARA’s defense is extensive, and is astonishing in its nothingness. The self-indulgence of the Elaboration, its poverty of argument, its manipulativeness and special pleading, its level of plain falsehood, and its smug, unrelenting certainty, its unwillingness to offer any but the most trivial concession, is phenomenal.
We shall go through the Elaboration section by section. The analysis is necessarily long, since the Elaboration is classic Gish Gallop and demonstrating the Gish requires galloping alongside. Readers are advised to pour themselves a stiff drink and to get comfortable, with the bottle within easy reach; they might be here a while.
Below, we work through the ACARA’s Terms of Reference, section by section, highlighting critical aspects to the review of the mathematics curriculum. We’ll indicate how the ToR gave, and continues to give, ACARA license to consciously and to thoroughly ignore mathematicians, as well as education ministers. We shall also indicate how, nonetheless, ACARA have violated their own Terms of Reference whenever and however it suited ACARA’s real agenda.