In England they call it “maths”; in North America we call it “math”. Does it matter? According to Spengler it does. In The Decline of the West (I, p.56) he says that there is no such thing as mathematic, only mathematics. He argues that each culture creates its own idea of numbers and sees reality in terms of it. “Every philosophy has hitherto grown up in conjunction with a mathematic belong to it.”
In a sense, Spengler is right. As Rushdoony responds, “Various religions do create their cultures and their mathematics. [But]...to say that there are many mathematics does not therefore mean that there is no mathematic. [Where]...there is no God, there can be no mathematic, only various man-created mathematics” [The Philosophy of the Christian Curriculum, p.57]. To say that there are many mathematics begs the question: is there a true mathematic?
Today, even if we talk of “math”, most schools are teaching math as a particular expression of a contemporary, godless worldview. When I was at school, I was in the final batch of students who passed through before a whole new mathematic was introduced – the experiment called “Modern Math”. What did I miss? And what does it reveal of what students are being taught today? Rushdoony quotes Danielle Hunebelle’s article, “Turning the Tables on Arithmetic”, describing how elementary students are taught in harmony with modern mathematics based on sets:
Beginners are taught, “You are going to create a set.” Then the child will suggest some kind of odd set: a teacher, a pickle, and a pinch of salt. Now look how important [that] decision is... I call this set ‘S’. It now exists because I have created it. In old mathematics, you contemplated a pre-established world. Today it is I, it is the child, who creates this world, who makes the decisions, and who is aware of the fact that he is deciding.
Experts may debate whether the new math has improved the levels of numeracy among students; the fact that few people can figure out how much change they’ll get at the store without a calculator may give some indication! But the fundamental reason why I would not want my children sitting in a secular math class is because they are likely to be taught the wrong answer to the big question: Is there a pre-established world whose laws reflect the nature of its creator, or does the mind of man create a world out of chaos?
Parents should be careful who they allow to give their children Sets Education.
For more on curriculum from a biblical perspective, see “What do you Learn in School?”