Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. The Battle over ‘2+2=4’ Started as a Joke

 

According to Cathy Young, writing for Arc Digital, the “Battle of Two Plus Two” started out as a meme mocking social justice warriors. Back in June, James Lindsay, co-author of Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity―and Why This Harms Everybody, a new book with possibly the longest subtitle ever, posted a series of graphics that he called Woke Minis, including:

This was retweeted this to Nicole Hanna-Jones of Project 1619 fame, who fired back with the message:

Using Arabic numerals to try to make a point about white, Western superiority is just so damn classic.

Brittany Marshall, a Ph.D. candidate, teacher, and “self-described ‘social justice change agent'” reinforced Hanna-Jones:

Paul Joseph Watson, a right-wing blogger, quickly fired back:

With the battle lines drawn, the fight was on. A call went out to SJWs everywhere asking for examples in which two plus two do not equal four. Responses ranging from the clever to the ridiculous flooded in. Techniques fell into two categories:

  1. Switching from base 10 to bases 3, or 4:
    1. In base 3, 2+2 = 11
    2. In base 4, 2+2=10
  2. Playing word games. For example:
    1. Two apples plus two oranges doesn’t equal four apples
    2. Two people plus two people equals forty fingers

Changing the base, however, doesn’t change the mathematics, only the way in which the same values are represented.

Word games can be creative and sometimes amusing, but they rely on the sleight-of-hand trick of eliminating abstraction (two anythings plus two anythings equals four anythings), which eliminates mathematics altogether, replacing it with meaningless nonsense (two horses plus two horses equals sixteen hooves).

The injection of political correctness hardly started with James Lindsay’s mocking tweet, however. Young points to Seattle Public School’s 2019 K-12 Math Ethnic Studies Framework, which asks students to consider such questions as:

  • Where does Power and Oppression show up in our math experiences?
  • Who holds power in a mathematical classroom?
  • Who gets to say if an answer is right?
  • How is math manipulated to allow inequality and oppression to persist?
  • Where is there an opportunity to examine systemic oppression?
  • Can you suggest resolutions to oppressive mathematical practices?
  • How can we change mathematics from individualistic to collectivist thinking?

Young’s article also provides a link to the academic paper: Queering Mathematics: Disrupting Binary Oppositions in Mathematics Pre-service Teacher Education.

Young criticizes both sides for their angry, over-the-top rhetoric but concludes that it’s the Left that’s doing real damage:

[T]he “pro-SJW” camp includes people who are doing real harm to education, who traffic in provocative but empty sound bites like “mathematics operates as whiteness” and seem far more occupied with vague questions like “Can mathematics be antiracist?” than with the actual teaching of math. It also includes well-intentioned progressives who either genuinely don’t see how toxic this stuff is, or pretend not to understand.

This is not about intellectual exercises that yield “2+2=5.” It’s about an ideology that treats the math classroom as a place of oppression and racial division, and insinuates that the teacher who decides whether an answer is right or wrong has unjust power: An ideology which, under guise of anti-oppression advocacy, tells black and Latino kids that math as we know it is not for them.

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  1. Bob Thompson Member

    Perhaps every material item that relies on the mathematics of 2 + 2 = 4 should be removed from the environment within which these woke folks operate.

    • #1
    • September 1, 2020, at 8:49 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  2. DonG (Biden is compromised) Coolidge

    Every movement becomes a farce.

    • #2
    • September 1, 2020, at 8:55 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  3. Arahant Member

    This reminds me why I used to think the best sport was shoulder golf.

    • #3
    • September 1, 2020, at 8:57 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  4. Bob Thompson Member

    I pose the possibility that after so many failed attempts to overcome the effectiveness of the, can I say Anglo-Saxon, free market economic system, the Marxists have resorted to this bizarro mode.

    • #4
    • September 1, 2020, at 8:57 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  5. Percival Thatcher
    PercivalJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    There is no base that gets you to 2+2 = 5.

    Though, of course, II + II = IV. Except there were some Romans who represented 4 as “IIII.”

    And Legio IX Hispania sometimes left inscriptions where “IX” was expressed as “VIIII.” That might have been a joke then, too.

    • #5
    • September 1, 2020, at 8:58 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  6. Susan Quinn Contributor

    I can’t bear it. They have simply decided that they can make anything become anything. When they start messing with my chocolate chip cookies and try to make them flying saucers, I’m done. I joke, but none of it’s funny.

    • #6
    • September 1, 2020, at 8:58 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  7. Barfly Member

    I have a large investment in math, physics, and engineering texts. If 2 + 2 is determined to equal anything other than 4 then I am out some serious coin.

    [Afterthought: Or perhaps not. My idea of valuation will obviously have to change as well, since it’s kind of mathy.]

    • #7
    • September 1, 2020, at 9:09 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  8. Arahant Member

    Barfly (View Comment):

    I have a large investment in math, physics, and engineering texts. If 2 + 2 is determined to equal anything other than 4 then I am out some serious coin.

    Your math texts had numbers?

    • #8
    • September 1, 2020, at 9:11 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  9. Richard Fulmer Member
    Richard Fulmer

    When life becomes an SNL skit:

    • #9
    • September 1, 2020, at 9:12 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  10. Barfly Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Barfly (View Comment):

    I have a large investment in math, physics, and engineering texts. If 2 + 2 is determined to equal anything other than 4 then I am out some serious coin.

    Your math texts had numbers?

    As in the class of classes which are similar, yes.

    • #10
    • September 1, 2020, at 9:13 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  11. Arahant Member

    Barfly (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Barfly (View Comment):

    I have a large investment in math, physics, and engineering texts. If 2 + 2 is determined to equal anything other than 4 then I am out some serious coin.

    Your math texts had numbers?

    As in the class of classes which are similar, yes.

    Must have been that applied math stuff.

    • #11
    • September 1, 2020, at 9:14 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  12. namlliT noD Member
    namlliT noDJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Richard Fulmer: According to Cathy Young, writing for the Arc Digital opinion site, the “Battle of Two Plus Two” started out as a meme mocking social justice warriors.

    Two Plus Two has a long history of being the canonical example of fascist propaganda and its control over the simplest of truths.

    Please check out the Wikipedia article: 2 + 2 = 5

    I understand that during the Polish revolution over communism, writing “2 + 2 = 4” on a wall or in a window was an act of defiance.

    And from the powerful song “Cult of Personality” by Living Color:

    “I exploit you
    Still you love me
    I tell you one and one makes three
    I’m the cult of personality”

    So there’s a long history here.

    • #12
    • September 1, 2020, at 9:18 AM PDT
    • 14 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  13. Richard Fulmer Member
    Richard Fulmer

    James Lindsay’s quip about 2+2=4 being “white, Western mathematics” is, as Nikole Hannah-Jones’ tweet suggests, nonsense. Two plus two is four in every culture and knowledge of the fact long predates the rise of the West. Brittany Marshall, missed Hannah-Jones’ point entirely and swallowed Lindsay’s bait with her “2+2=4 is Western imperialism” tweet. The war has been fought on this false “culturally constructed” (tweetily constructed?) battleground ever since.

    • #13
    • September 1, 2020, at 9:24 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  14. Blondie Thatcher

    This crowd has been playing around with their brand of math since Farrakhan’s Million Man march. Rush had parodies years ago. 

    • #14
    • September 1, 2020, at 9:58 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  15. RightAngles Member

    There was a version of this idiocy in the early 90s with the advent of “Outcome-Based Education,” where “there are no wrong answers.” The moonbat proponents felt that declaring an answer to be incorrect would harm the self-esteem of the student. (What about their self-esteem when they become adults and don’t know how to add 2 plus 2?)

    • #15
    • September 1, 2020, at 10:43 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  16. Django Member

    2 + 2 = 5 ONLY for very large values of 2. 

    • #16
    • September 1, 2020, at 10:48 AM PDT
    • 10 likes
  17. Full Size Tabby Member

    Richard Fulmer:

    With the battle lines drawn, the fight was on. A call went out to SJWs everywhere asking for examples in which two plus two do not equal four. Responses ranging from the clever to the ridiculous flooded in. Techniques fell into two categories:

    1. Switching from base 10 to bases 3, or 4:
      1. In base 3, 2+2 = 11
      2. In base 4, 2+2=10
    2. Playing word games. For example:
      1. Two apples plus two oranges doesn’t equal four apples
      2. Two people plus two people equals forty fingers

    Changing the base, however, doesn’t change the mathematics, only the way in which the same values are represented. 

     

    And if different people are using different bases for expressing those values, communication between those people is going to be difficult, and mistakes will be made. We have enough trouble with the coexistence of Metric and English measuring systems. If people decide “base 10” is for white people, “base 3” is for black people, and “base 4” is for brown people, we’re going to have a lot of trouble communicating.

    Richard Fulmer:

    Young criticizes both sides for their angry, over-the-top rhetoric but concludes that it’s the Left that’s doing real damage:

    [T]he “pro-SJW” camp includes people who are doing real harm to education, who traffic in provocative but empty sound bites like “mathematics operates as whiteness” and seem far more occupied with vague questions like “Can mathematics be antiracist?” than with the actual teaching of math. It also includes well-intentioned progressives who either genuinely don’t see how toxic this stuff is, or pretend not to understand.

    This is not about intellectual exercises that yield “2+2=5.” It’s about an ideology that treats the math classroom as a place of oppression and racial division, and insinuates that the teacher who decides whether an answer is right or wrong has unjust power: An ideology which, under guise of anti-oppression advocacy, tells black and Latino kids that math as we know it is not for them.

    Yeah, that’s the ticket – give black and brown children another excuse to stay away from topics that might help them move ahead organically in society. Since I’m supposedly a white supremacist, I guess I should favor this – keep those black and brown kids away from numbers-oriented potential careers in math, science, engineering, accounting, finance, etc. :-)

    • #17
    • September 1, 2020, at 11:54 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  18. Stad Thatcher

    There is no idea too stupid, no concept too weird, no proposal too insane that the left won’t seize it and come up with a “scientific” theory to support it.

    • #18
    • September 1, 2020, at 1:49 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  19. Percival Thatcher
    PercivalJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Stad (View Comment):

    There is no idea too stupid, no concept too weird, no proposal too insane that the left won’t seize it and come up with a “scientific” theory to support it.

    … as long as there is grant money in it, they’ll find “scientists” who will be only too happy to jump in with both feet.

    • #19
    • September 1, 2020, at 1:56 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  20. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. StephensJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I say they can all give up all their math based tech

    • #20
    • September 1, 2020, at 3:07 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  21. Richard Fulmer Member
    Richard Fulmer

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    I say they can all give up all their math based tech

    That would get them off Twitter.

    • #21
    • September 1, 2020, at 3:32 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  22. Richard Fulmer Member
    Richard Fulmer

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    I say they can all give up all their math based tech

    Who keeps the water running and the lights on once we’ve got a couple of generations of people who were taught woke, or queer, or feminist math and all of us evil, racist people retire?

    • #22
    • September 1, 2020, at 3:37 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  23. Randy Webster Member

    Stad (View Comment):

    There is no idea too stupid, no concept too weird, no proposal too insane that the left won’t seize it and come up with a “scientific” theory to support it.

    George Orwell’s statement comes to mind.

    • #23
    • September 1, 2020, at 4:07 PM PDT
    • Like
  24. Randy Webster Member

    Richard Fulmer: he teacher who decides whether an answer is right or wrong

    The teacher doesn’t decide if the answer is right or wrong; mathematicians over the centuries made that decision.

    • #24
    • September 1, 2020, at 4:10 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  25. Django Member

    I followed some of the links. These people have been educated well past their ability to understand. 

    • #25
    • September 1, 2020, at 4:23 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  26. William Fehringer Member

    There are four lights!

    • #26
    • September 1, 2020, at 4:30 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  27. Bob Thompson Member

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    There is no idea too stupid, no concept too weird, no proposal too insane that the left won’t seize it and come up with a “scientific” theory to support it.

    George Orwell’s statement comes to mind.

    The young man who shot 3 ‘peaceful protesters’ in Kenosha, killing 2, is in custody with first degree murder and other charges being filed pending extradition from Illinois. From what we know a fair case for self-defense will be made on his behalf.

    A Trump supporter was shot and killed unprovoked in Portland by a known person identified as an Antifa supporter with no charges filed and is not known to be in custody or having an arrest warrant issued.

    Is this how our new Leftist America will work or just while they get rid of all who claim to be ‘individuals’ and want choices?

     

    • #27
    • September 1, 2020, at 4:33 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  28. Percival Thatcher
    PercivalJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    William Fehringer (View Comment):

    There are four lights!

    • #28
    • September 1, 2020, at 4:40 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  29. Cato Rand Inactive

    Good god is that Seattle thing real? Who on earth would send their kids to such a school? If that’s what we’re teaching kids these days we are well and truly doomed.

    • #29
    • September 1, 2020, at 7:05 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  30. SParker Member

    Django (View Comment):

    2 + 2 = 5 ONLY for very large values of 2.

    I had an instructor who told this story: Proctoring an examination he looks up from his book to see a student obviously struggling with a proof. After a bit the the student has the cartoon light bulb over his head illuminate and he’s off to the races with a smile on his face. Grading the exam, the instructor remembers that moment when he finds that the student has begun a proof with “Let 3 = 2,” which earns the comment “Yes, but only for very small 3.” (Math Puzzler: The remainder of the proof must be true. Why?*)

    If I didn’t know better I’d say this is an elaborate subterfuge by K-12 math teachers to get students to check their work, something kids as well as adults traditionally loathe doing. That’s how you know right answers from wrong. Who knows, maybe they’re building up to the sophisticated fact that that you need neither numbers nor the ability to count to do mathematics. (Set theory does the trick, although this still seems to escape anthropological linguists encountering languages that don’t have limited counting number names, as in “none, one, two, a bunch.”)

    *Answer: The implication of a false assumption is always true. Russell thought this might be the source of all paradox. You can construct the truth table your damn self if you like: p IMPLIES q is equivalent to NOT p OR q. Or go here.

    • #30
    • September 1, 2020, at 8:17 PM PDT
    • 1 like