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May 25, 2011 / Dr. Toad

Cliff Mass at The Stranger

Cliff Mass says whatever he wants at The Stranger this week, after being fired from KUOW for saying things that aren’t about the weather.

It seems the issue is that he viewed his volunteer segment on the weather as science outreach, and KUOW viewed him as their unpaid weather guy. It seems that the shit hit the fan when, after a Seattle Times article complaining that UW takes in more out-of-state students instead of strong A in-state students, Mass used the five-minute pulpit he had at KUOW to complain about the state of math education in WA and to set the record straight (according to him anyway) about who gets into UW and why.

A lot of people seem to feel strongly that he had the right to do so, and was wrongly terminated. Mass clearly thinks that public radio should allow for public comment and that presenting both sides of an issue isn’t always necessary, especially when a particular personality comes on air to say what they think. And I tend to agree.

But last night, some friends of mine surprised me with a different perspective. Sometimes (often?) people who are experts on one field express their opinion in another field, which can confuse the listeners into giving their opinion more weight than it should really carry. Mass is a great meteorologist. Do we know that he also is an expert in math education? Perhaps he isn’t, perhaps he’s just a math curmudgeon who wants to see children do the same rote and drill learning that he was subjected to many many years ago.

My opinion on this matter is just that — a rather uneducated opinion. But I think being a UW prof and seeing the incoming undergraduate classes and their math skills every year gives Mass at least some expertise in the matter. Even though the general point, about private opinions expressed by experts in a different field, is I think very much true and valid.

Let’s see what happens next.

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