Naturally, you've heard the joke about political correctness run amok -- that pretty soon, people are going to start claiming math is racist.
Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but ...
Math actually is racist, according to Rochelle Gutierrez, an education professor at the University of Illinois. The following excerpt from a Campus Reform write-up is not a joke unless this professor is putting on an admirably epic long-term hoax:
"On many levels, mathematics itself operates as Whiteness. Who gets credit for doing and developing mathematics, who is capable in mathematics, and who is seen as part of the mathematical community is generally viewed as White," Gutierrez argued.
Gutierrez also worries that algebra and geometry perpetuate privilege, fretting that "curricula emphasizing terms like Pythagorean theorem and pi perpetuate a perception that mathematics was largely developed by Greeks and other Europeans."
The thing is, a good deal of math was developed, or improved, or at least passed on to us today by Greeks and Europeans. And there's nothing wrong with that. We can acknowledge it, the same way we tip our hats to the Arabs (perhaps unwittingly) each time we say the Arabic word "algebra," even though algebra predated its modern Arab invention by several thousand years.
The word "mathematics" is itself a Greek word for "that which is to be learned." Euclid's geometry book is still in print and useful. Eratosthenes first calculated the circumference of the earth in the third century B.C., with what we now know to be surprising accuracy. And it would be absurd to deny the significance of Pythagoras and his mysterious mathematical cult, even if he was not the first to know of or to prove the theorem we have since named after him.
And that's only scratching the surface, of course. Ancient Greece is remembered for its flourishing of learning, science, literature and philosophy, a surprisingly large amount of which survived the ages. We're all better off for it.
Unfortunately, the Greeks are also credited with inventing the academy. If that means we have them to blame for Professor Gutierrez's scholarship, then perhaps she has a point after all.