>(REPOST FROM Monday, April 17, 2006)
So a math instructor at Bellevue Community College in Washington state decided upon a rather controversial word problem on a recent math test. It reads:
Condoleezza holds a watermelon just over the edge of the roof of the 300 -foot Federal Building, and tosses it up with a velocity of 20 feet per second. The height of the watermelon above the ground t seconds later is given by formula h= -16t2 20t 300a. How many seconds will it pass her (she’s standing at a height of 300 feet) on the way down?b. When will the watermelon hit ground?
The implication is clear, and it’s undoubtedly a racist one, harking back to the worst of the Jim Crow era’s degrading stereotypes of southern blacks.
Michelle Malkin of “In Defense of Internment” fame (or infamy!) has come to the defense of the understandably outraged conservative students who brought it to her attention. (No, conservatism has no inherent link to the feeling of outrage over the issue – obviously – but it’s no surprise that self described conservatives and Republican activists have seized upon the incident.) In this case, I believe they have a right to be upset.
David Beito, libertarian scholar and blogger at the History News Network, has criticized the conservative activists who sought to bring attention to the racist math problem, and seek some form of redress; among them is Reverend Wayne Perryman, longtime Civil Rights activist. Beito points out that, inevitably, Bellevue college president Jean Floten has used the incident to expand the administration’s power, implementing sensitivity programs and other such (potentially) noxious thought control measures. But this may not have been they purpose of student complaints, only the unintended byproduct. Regardless of David Horowitz’s campaign to fight indoctrination with a “bill of rights” that would mandate intellectual diversity (i.e. “indoctrination”), the students mentioned in the reports I’ve read simply complained, never explicitly endorsing a heavy handed response on the part of the college.
Whether those who sought to condem the teacher and bring attention to the story really meant to counter racism, or simply defend a revered henchwoman for the Bush administration, it is still important to expose the kind of blatant racism shown in such a theoretically innocuous item as a math test.