The Secret Agenda of Irrational Numbers

The final bell rings heralding the beginning of a brand new school year. It is your first day of 8th grade math, and you have no idea what to expect. After a brief introduction from your teacher, he wastes no time and jumps right in. In large red marker he writes the following on the whiteboard:

“Know that there are numbers that are not rational, and approximate them by rational numbers.”

I know what you are all thinking: this sounds like a basic mathematical principle but there is obviously a hidden racist, atheist, communist, or liberal agenda at play here. I suppose that depends on who you ask, but I am not sure I believe it. My anonymous Anti-core friend “L” will tell you this:

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Or as longtime educational and political commentator “Gary” prophetically warns:

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However, I am just not convinced. To be fair, I haven’t sacrificed years of precious time pouring over the “facts” and studying every facet of pedagogical theory like Professor Oak Norton of the prestigious UACC.

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(Left) Professor Oak Norton of the UACC- not to be mistaken with Professor Oak, the prominent Pokémon researcher (right).

I mean, have you read his 3 part dissertation on the damaging effects constructivism can have on children’s brains? I tried to look up the word “constructivism“from a less biased source, but alas, there were too many big words on the Wikipedia page, and frankly, Oak broke it down better.

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Obviously anyone who can even spell “totalitarianism” and “Prussia” knows their stuff. And who am I to argue? One time I tried to argue with a Flat-Earther, but was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of evidence that existed proving the earth was flat. Eventually I was forced to come to the same conclusion. Just look at this picture and try to tell me it doesn’t make you question everything you know:

See, you dummy. Look how flat that line is!

But if you, like me, are still somehow unconvinced that the math standard I quoted at the beginning isn’t a satanic message when read backwards, let me offer an alternative. An alternative that is slightly more believable and may even contain a hidden moral.

I think it’s a metaphor.

Now before you go off accusing me of trying to indoctrinate anybody,  just hear me out. In life we meet a lot of irrational people, and chances are we end up having to deal with them. Like numbers, it can be difficult at first to distinguish irrational ones from their rational counterparts. However, there are a few tests you can perform to help you know the difference.

For example, if you read something that states teaching a child why 5 times 5 equals 25 is analogous to complete and total “anarchy,” you might be dealing with an irrational person. Or, if after this person tells you that after “sniffing around” math and reading standards for a while their instincts prompted them to not only devote their entire life to getting to the bottom of a gigantic conspiracy, but aggressively tear down anyone who disagrees with them along the way… you might be dealing with an irrational person (or just Jim Carey’s character from the movie “The Number 23”

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Trying to convince your friends that the Core Standards are actually constructs of the Illuminati can be a daunting task.

Once you realize who you are dealing with, the rest becomes easy. It’s like learning how to multiply fractions for the first time: once you have the rule down, you just apply it to subsequent problems. If a fellow parent in your neighborhood tells you that large amounts of data are being “mined” from your 3rd grader’s math tests and stored in Bill Gates’ personal vault deep beneath Washington D.C., or a political candidate promises to end the tyrannical reign of a constitutionally elected educational governing body by putting his foot down, stop and ask yourself: “am I dealing with an irrational person?”  If you can affirmatively answer that question with even an ounce of certainty, it’s probably wise to make the rational choice of steering clear.

That’s really all there is to it. Stop. Recognize. Repeat. It’s a simple lesson from an even simpler standard. Maybe that secret agenda isn’t so bad after all.

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Utah’s Anti-Core Cult

 

It’s an evening some of us are only too familiar with. It’s Tuesday night, and you are surfing YouTube watching grainy, pirated, reruns of Judge Judy episodes, and the next thing you know, 6 hours have passed. Now you’re engrossed in number 2 of a 3 part web documentary that provides conclusive evidence that lizard-people do indeed inhabit the center of the planet. You have reached the fringe. The Great Beyond. Anything goes out here, and when it comes to reliable information, it’s every man for himself.

Last night, I found myself perusing this strange realm and soon stumbled upon a video with an intriguing title:

Obviously I was excited, because anything to do with wizards this deep into the web had to be fascinating. I was soon disappointed however, when at only 7 minutes into the video, all I had heard was a boring build up to an even more boring conspiracy theory. But as I continued to watch and did a little further digging, I realized I had stumbled upon something far more serious, and far more dangerous than I presumed.

Meet Oak Norton.

And no, although he looks nearly identical, he is not the guy who tried to sell you a vacuum on your front porch last year as he traveled door to door. Oak is the leader of a rag-tag group of radical extremists called the “Utahns Against Common Core,” a group hell-bent on fighting the Common Core and its devastating influence on helping children learn math and reading.

For those of you who do not know what the Common Core is, let me give you a brief explanation directly from the source:

“The Common Core is a set of high-quality academic standards in mathematics and English language arts/literacy (corestandards.org)

Thats it. Standards. Standards like this one for third graders:

Represent and solve problems involving multiplication and division.”

Or this one for sixth graders:

“Solve real-world and mathematical problems involving area, surface area, and volume.”

Needless to say I was confused by the sentiments in Oak’s video regarding the “evil” behind these basic math requirements. Wasn’t this addition and subtraction we were talking about? How did we get from an educational standard to a conspiracy to indoctrinate our children with dystopian values?

In the corresponding blog post to this video, Oak gives us the answer to that exact question.

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That’s right folks. It’s not about the standards. It’s about one man’s quest to expose the ancient, unholy agenda of the federal government to destroy God and the family, one multiplication problem at a time.

You may laugh. I know I did. But as I read the comments on his videos and on his website, it became less and less amusing. These people weren’t laughing with me. These people were embracing Oak-soaking up his anti-government rhetoric and lauding him as a crusader. Whole masses of terrified parents were flocking to worship at the altar of Oak and receive his rambling instructions. His message of fear had slowly permeated through an unwitting audience, and without resistance had diffused into the hive consciousness.  A following had been born.

This wasn’t the first time I had encountered these individuals, however. I had seen them spew their paranoid gospel on social media, and even spoken to some in person. Each shared common traits such as an inability to reason, and a complete disregard for fact. Each interaction I had with them usually ended in a similar fashion: an angry reaction to the realization that the truth they clung so dearly to was fiction, and that their paradigm was one not fixed in reality. But overall, this seemed like a small and innocuous sector of the general population, and I was just as pleased to discontinue the conversation as they were.

But recently, it was my paradigm that was shattered. Last Saturday at the Republican State Convention, for the first time, I witnessed the true nature and scale of the Cult of Oak. Over 2000 of his disciples filed into the crowded Salt Palace to fulfill their destiny. No longer exiled to fringes, these zealots had covertly infiltrated one of the most crucial political gatherings in the State of Utah and they would not be satisfied until a complete victory had been obtained.

This was no longer the rag-tag band of internet trolls I had largely ignored for so long. These people now had power. And although Oak Norton had seemingly brought his followers to the promised land, they now had found a Savior.

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Promising to “get Utah out of the Common CoreJonathon Johnson, this election’s “Libertarian” gubernatorial challenger, pounded his fists on the podium to the deafening adulation of the crowd. Worshipers stood and cheered as he swore to eliminate the evils of higher math and reading standards. As the votes were counted, and the dust settled, it became clear that the madness had reached a tipping point. Fear had won, and what started as one man’s misguided and nonsensical journey to have his way had quickly become a revolution.

And that is why we have decided to fight back. To “pull back the wizard’s curtain” if you will. For too long, this sore has been left to fester in the heart of Utah, and has become infectious; endangering the future of Utah’s schools. To be clear, the education of our children is a non partisan venture; one whose outcomes should not be decided by an elite few who hate public education as much as they do the thought of vaccinating their kids. It’s time to get fringe politics out of our education. It’s time to let math and reading be just that. It’s time to stand up for the Utah Core.