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And when you recount their blessings, in your smug parochial way

7 June, 2008

A friend recently recommended Simon Jenkins’ column in the Guardian: although I’ve never warmed to them, I’ve often felt guilty in dismissing them without particularly close or patient reading. Perhaps, I told myself, once I get over instinctive defensiveness to contrary opinions, I’d find that the man’s comments had points worth taking on board.

It is perhaps unfortunate, for my blood pressure at least, that this Friday’s Graun has a Jenkins piece article of breathtaking Bounderby. (I firmly believe that this is a proper name that deserves elevation to an abstract noun or adjjective, though I bow to the classical education of Mr Jenkins as to how it should be declined.)

My initial reaction … well, there’s enough swearing and abuse on the internet already. My second reaction was that this article is so, so wrong on several levels. Thankfully some of the comments are pointing out the flaws and correcting Jenkins’ apparent misapprehensions. I say “apparent” because part of me feels it hard to believe an experienced journalist doesn’t know when he comes across as supercilious, smug, sneering, blinkered, Bounderby and Philistine; in which case he’s doing this deliberately.

Assuming though that Jenkins is heartfelt, the assumptions beneath his piece are telling and depressing; depressing in that they show that we mathematicians have failed to make the case not just for our subject, but for education as more than inculcation. The URL, name and “about” section of this blog and its subtitle are a fair summary of my own attitudes (though I can’t take credit for the aphorism) and I guess I should live up to them by setting out my own views.

P.S. Apologies for the melodramatic use of old-fashioned left-wing bleeding-heart lyrics in the title of this post. They were the first thing that came to mind when I reread Jenkins’ piece and found the following passage:

I loved wandering in its virtual world of trigonometry and logarithms, primes and surds. I breakfasted on quadratic equations, lunched on differential calculus and strolled, arm in arm, with Ronald Searle’s square on the hypotenuse.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. mattheath permalink
    4 July, 2008 3:34 pm

    Sir Simon was just made head of the National Trust. I expect to see him personally smashing Woolsthorpe Manor to pieces.

  2. 4 July, 2008 5:15 pm

    Or Bletchley Park perhaps?


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