1953 February 25

President Eisenhower: Communist Math Teachers May Sneak Marxism Into Math Problems


In a press conference on this day, President Dwight Eisenhower, when asked whether Communists should be allowed to teach in colleges and universities and whether that included mathematics teachers, pointed out that it was possible to sneak ideological messages into math problems. The comment was characteristic of the anti-Communist paranoia of the Cold War, in which people were ready to find Communists under every bed and Communist ideas hidden in every aspect of daily life.

Recalling an experience in Europe during World War II: “. . . It is not quite so simple as you think. I was shown a book, just after the close of World War II; it was a German textbook in arithmetic. Now, instead of having the traditional apples or bushels of wheat, and so on, to deal with in the problems, it was problems couched in this language: ‘If there are so many Sudeten Germans in Czechoslovakia who actually belong to Mr. Hitler,’ and so on. So you can use mathematics to be rather doctrinal.”

Learn more: Ellen Schrecker, Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America (1998)

Learn more about the ACLU in the Cold War and other Times of National Crisis: https://www.aclu.org/aclu-history-rooting-out-subversives-paranoia-and-patriotism-mccarthy-era

Learn more about President Eisenhower: Stephen E. Ambrose, Eisenhower (1983)

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