Case Study of Faith-Academic Discipline Integration: Statistical Inference

(Hello world! I know it has been quite some time since I posted anything new here. This semester of Ph.D. coursework has kept me otherwise engaged, and that on top of my full-time teaching responsibilities. There are a number of projects that should come to completion this summer which will give me a whole new wave of exciting posts to share. In the meantime I was grateful to receive an email from guest contributor Andrew Hartley sharing the slides and his notes from a presentation he gave at Dordt College on the integration of Christian faith and statistics. Click on the image below to view the presentation or click here. Enjoy.)

by Andrew Hartley

Andrew Hartley is the author of Christian and Humanist Foundations for Statistical Inference; Religious Control of Statistical Paradigms. For more information on this work, please visit the Resource Book page. Guest author Steve Bishop posted an interview with Andrew as part of his series on Christian Mathematicians.

Hartley Lecture

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Education: An Act of Justice or an Act of Grace?

It has been a while since my last post. Ph.D. work, conference, and family have all kept me busy throughout the summer. I should hopefully have a few posts over the next few weeks that summarize the conferences that I have attend, the progress I have made in my Ph.D. research, and some general thoughts I have considered this summer. This post falls in the latter category. Enjoy.

I have written here before that education is inherently value-laden. If you are an educator then it is not a question of “are you teaching values?” but rather “which values are you teaching?” In this vein of thinking it can also be argued that education is inherently religious if it instills within us some sense of values and some sense of faith. Now, those values and the object(s) of that faith could vary greatly depending on the educational institution, but the fact is they are always there. This is why for centuries the work of education was undertaken by explicitly religious institutions and it is only fairly recently in society’s history that the state has taken on this endeavor (Wilson). So for everyone who feels that there is something wrong with our current state/system of education, I would argue that the root issue is primarily a religious one.

Every pedagogy assumes an anthropology (Smith). Before you can teach human beings you have to have some understanding of what human beings are. Ultimately I believe this is the reason for the existence of standardized testing (at least in America). The state approaches education from the perspective that all human beings are essentially good. It is simply a matter of providing education equally for all that will result in well-trained, productive citizens who contribute to the good of society. From this perspective, education is an act of justice. It is a citizen’s right to be educated. If the educational system is an administration of justice on the part of the state then it will inextricably be tied to universal standards that students and educators are required to meet. I mean, isn’t that how the justice system works? It sets standards in place that apply equally to everyone in a blanket approach and expects every individual to live up to those standards. There are also consequences when the standard isn’t met. Fail to meet the justice standard in society and go to jail. Fail to meet the standard in school and get remediation or don’t move to the next grade level or don’t graduate. As long as the state is in control of education, expect standardized testing to always be a part of the educational process.

What is the alternative? Maybe, just maybe, human beings aren’t inherently good. Maybe they are inherently evil and no amount of knowledge is going to save them from that. If we adopt this (Christian) anthropology then education will not be seen as an act of justice, as a right of the citizens, but rather as an act of grace. Education can be viewed as an act of grace that missionally reaches out to engage the lost mind. Grace doesn’t set a standard for you to meet. In fact, grace realizes that you can’t meet THE standard. So then the focus of education shifts from universal standards to individual and communal transformation. Results aren’t measured in knowledge gained but rather in affections formed.

My thoughts are still developing on this topic, but for now I can leave you with this fact: as a Christian educator (be it in an explicitly Christian setting or even when I was in public school), I care less about what my students know, and more about what my students love. This is the purpose of education.

Some books that I have been reading that have influenced my thinking on this issue:

Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation, by James K.A. Smith.

The Case for Classical Christian Education, by Douglas Wilson.

Christian Mathematicians – Cundy

By Steve Bishop

(Disclaimer: The views expressed by guest authors do not necessarily reflect those of GodandMath.com. Guest articles are sought after for the purpose of bringing more diverse viewpoints to the topics of mathematics and theology. The point is to foster discussion. To this end respectful and constructive comments are highly encouraged.)

Henry Martyn Cundy (1913-2005)

The Schools Maths Project (SMP) has shaped much of the English and Welsh schools maths curriculum. One of the key people behind it was Henry Martyn Cundy. His obituary in The Times described him as: “A mathematician of exceptional influence in school mathematics” (Thwaites, 2005).

Cundy, born in 1913 in Derby, was the son of an evangelical Anglican vicar. He attended the Christian Monkton Coombe school as a border in 1927 and went on to study mathematics at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1932.

He obtained his doctorate in the area of quantum theory in 1938. He then moved into teaching obtaining a post at the Sherborne public school in Dorset. He remained there until 1966.

Geoffrey Howson describes a meeting with Cundy:

“I realised that I was in the company of someone quite outstanding, with knowledge and interests extending far beyond mathematics, and who, within mathematics, possessed an enviable ability to structure and make connections between various topics and to communicate his thoughts with great fluency and clarity.”

Cundy was a committed Christian. He was secretary of the Cambridge Prayer Fellowship and in 1945 wrote The Faith of a Christian (Inter-Varsity Fellowship). He was an active member of the Anglican church and a Methodist local preacher.

In 1951 Cundy collaborated with A. P. Rollett to write Mathematical Models. In the preface they describe the aim of the book:

Mathematics is often regarded as the bread and butter of science. If the butter is omitted, the result is indigestion, loss of appetite, or both. The purpose of this book is to suggest some ways of buttering the bread. The human mind can seldom accept completely abstract ideas; they must be derived from, or illustrated by, concrete examples. Here the reader will find ways of providing for himself tangible objects which will bring that necessary contact with reality into the symbolic world of mathematics.

The SMP changed the British school mathematics curriculum. One of the instigators Sir Brian Thwaites in his obituary on Cundy describes it:

In 1961, however, there came the opportunity for decisive influence on school mathematics. In that year three heads of mathematics – Tom Jones from Winchester , Douglas Quadling from Marlborough with Martyn Cundy from Sherborne – met largely at the instigation of Bryan Thwaites (then a professor at Southampton and now Sir Bryan) to consider formulating new syllabuses at O- and A-level. They were an exceptional and remarkable trio and it is unlikely that such a powerful group could be formed nowadays from schools. They were hugely ambitious in their plans which included not merely new content but the writing of entirely new, and novel, texts and teachers’ guides, together with a large continuing programme of residential teacher-training courses. For these purposes, many more teachers became involved and a formal organisation was created with the name The School Mathematics Project. The SMP (as it became known) rapidly became the dominant player in the reform of school mathematics and its influence spread internationally and notably in Africa. And now, it is the only project of those heady years of curriculum reform in the early sixties which still operates.

His missionary zeal – for both mathematics and Christianity – led him to take up a post at the University of Malawi. There he became an elder in the Presbyterian Church of Malawi as well as professor of Mathematics at the University.

His son Ian (1945-2009) graduated from Cambridge in mathematics and theology he became the Bishop of Lewes and then the 37th Bishop of Peterborough. His other two sons David and Tim became mathematics teachers.

References

Howson, Geoffrey (2005) Independent 8 March.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/hmartyncundy-6150831.html

Thwaites, Brian  (2005) Times obituary

http://www.oldshirburnian.org.uk/index.php/obituaries/94-cundyhenrymartynstaff-1938-1966

Further resources

Cundy was a regular contributor to the Mathematical Gazette

http://www.jstor.org/action/doBasicSearch?Query=au:”H.+Martyn+Cundy“&wc=on

 

Steve Bishop is the compiler of A Bibliography for a Christian Approach to Mathematics and the author of several articles on the relationship between faith and math. Look for future posts from him in this series on Christian Mathematicians.

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