Mathematics For The Masses: Blue Collar Scholar’s Mission Statement: Making Higher Mathematics and Scientific Education Affordable For All !

Mathematics For The Masses: An Origin Story

Blue Collar Scholar Books: Making Higher Mathematics and Scientific Education Affordable For All !

What’s BCS and how did it go from being an idle

thought that arrived to me on toilet (no lie) to

being an actual publishing company?

The backstory here is bit interesting and it has to

begin with the path that lead me to beginning this

company. I know, I know-those of you who have

our first published book, Differential Calculus

On Normed Spaces (DCONS) have already read

the origin story and our central directives are

probably bored to tears.

But some stories do bear repeating to set context.

Therefore, semi-quoting from the preface of that book to get started here:

      The Quiet Revolution

   The quiet revolution I’m talking about is the

burgeoning world of online self-publishing-in

particular, the self-publishing of

academic textbooks. There was a time, not so long

ago, when publishing a mathematics textbook

required a deal with one of the major publishers-

and unless you were a Fields Medal winner at

Harvard, you were basically at their mercy even if

they decided to bless you with a contract for your

text. 

    They dictated length, what they wanted in the

book, how many graphics, that section’s too tough

for American students, complete ownership of the

copyright for a century if the book was successful-

on and on and on.

   

     After all that pain and suffering, the resulting

text is so expensive, the author can’t even recom-

mend it to his or her own students because they’ll

have to take out a loan to purchase it.

This is why until recently so many practicing

scientists-and mathematicians in particular-

would cringe when you suggested writing a

textbook. Even if writing such a book in their field

was a labor of love for them, the misery of getting

it published sucked all the joy out of it.

The Ghost of American Serfdom Future

     Sadly, this is part of a larger social regression

over the last 30 years in America of making

higher education a career necessity

that simultaneously, is purely a profit making

machine with increasingly restricted access to the

children of the non-wealthy. Horrifyingly, with

the charter school/academic reform movement,

this thinking is now spreading to grade &

secondary schools where quality public schools

are rapidly becoming extinct. The result is an

entire generation is crippled with lifelong debt

and steadily diminishing earning prospects.

    Meanwhile, the prospects of their children

even being able to read, let alone go to college,

erodes with each new administration. This is a

crisis on both political sides borne of

the increasingly plutocratic nature of our nation.
 

As someone who was trained at The City

University of New York, this situation makes me

want to put my fist through a wall. The thought of

my future descendants’ subsistence farming in

Pan-Em to survive while wondering what magic

holds the moon up, if it’s really made of cheese

and kneeling to passing Lords and Ladies

of America while they snicker is a nightmare I

wake up consistently from now.

The Mathemagician’s Oath: Our Mission Statement

     Education should be a right every citizen

should have a realistic chance at. Therefore, if our

government is being paid off to ensure only

children of the privileged have that right, then it’s

up to us to create alternatives. 

I decided that I was going to do what little I could

to ensure that future didn’t come to pass.

From Waiting “Tables” To Publishing Lost Classics

My first attempt was when, as a graduate student,

I began the blog Tables, Chairs And Beermugs .

The title being an ode to Hilbert’s famous quote

and referring to the rather ubiquitous subject

matter of the blog. My health problems and

distractions of my personal life prevented making

the blog successful. Part of the problem was

lack of content focus. I’m turning back to it and

focusing its’ subject matter on purely

mathematical matters:

Textbook reviews, academic commentary and

research topics. I hope this will not only improve

the blog’s quality, but allow it to attract more

of an audience.

   But even so, it wouldn’t make a dent in my stated goals.

The second, much more significant attempt by me to make

contribution was the massive WordPress website,

Tuloomath, to which I dedicated a year and a half of my

precious life with no formal computer science training

building. The website’s purpose is clear in the name,

which is an acronym for the following mouthful: The

Universal Lyceum Of Online Mathematics. A lyceum is a

library or repository of information. That’s precisely what

this was intended to be: A complete link collection for

quality free sources of study-lecture notes/online textbook

drafts- for impoverished students of mathematics at all

levels from secondary school algebra and geometry to PhD

research topics. Sadly, the response, while positive, hasn’t

gotten the traffic I’d desired. 

 

This is the beginning of the third stage of my contribution

to the revolution. 

   The Altruistic Capitalist

A slight digression before we proceed: I hope

when you’re online, you’ll check out Tuloomath.

Register at the site, it’s free. (The site at this

writing-May 2018-does need a dramatic

updating and overhaul, which I hope to carry out

late this summer. I have not abandoned this site

by any means.) 

      Nevertheless, when I finally took the plunge

and decided to begin a publishing company, I had

very clear directives and intentions for it. These

grew out of what I attempted for both the blog and

the website: In our increasingly plutocratic, vastly

unequal and education-privileged country, it’s

becoming an absolute necessity for non-

aristocratic students and self-learners to have

affordable learning resources, primarily

textbooks. 

     Public education is slowly, intentionally and

systematically being degraded in America with the

remaining State funds being directed to private

schools. As a result, self-education is

consequently going to once again become the only

possible means for the lower classes to achieve

any level of higher education. Tragic as this is, it’s

becoming very clear to anyone paying attention

that low-cost textbooks need to be available to

prevent our world from becoming the feudal

nightmare described above.

    Once I made the decision, I was absolutely

obsessed with getting this done as soon as

possible.

                         

              The Dover Effect

      As far as inexpensive university level science

textbooks, particularly in physics and

mathematics, this niche is, of course, far from

empty. The publishing colossus Dover Books has,

of course, for decades been the sole provider of

quality, low cost reprinted paperbacks and has to

serve as the model for anyone attempting to

penetrate this market. As a former student of very

limited resources who relied heavily on Dover

books for my educational tools, I can honestly say

for the most part, they’ve done a spectacular job

of making great sources available again.
     

       Anyone beginning a publishing company in

this particular market even attempting to

realistically compete with Dover is delusional and

doomed to failure, pure and simple. Fortunately,

this is not my intention. I believe this market is

both vastly large and sparsely inhabited with

publishers. Dover has really been the only major

player. As a result. I believe there is more than

enough room for new publishers to grow to

significant profit levels using this model without

even beginning to make a dent in Dover’s bottom

line.

    Monopolies are not what capitalism is supposed

to be about. Supplying buyers with choices is very

important, both morally and economically. The

existence of alternatives to Dover without actively

competing with it can only help this market as

long as those alternatives are attempting to bring

something novel and helpful to those academic

purchasers.

Except for one tiny problem. With neither

significant funds or formal business

training/experience, I had absolutely no clue how

to get started.

        Birth of Of A Notion

              I had all kinds of half-baked ideas at first

for how to launch this thing. 

   Writing a full-blown calculus textbook, writing a

book of low cost textbook reviews with a guide for

self-study, creating free lectures on You Tube on

various mathematics subjects from high school

geometry to real variables to algebraic geometry.  

    I considered launching it via the back door, by

creating a progressive politics blog, writing a

stark raving angry book on how the bought off

Democratic party and Hilary Clinton may have

ended Democracy in America long term with their

aristocratically sociopathic, arrogant 2016

campaign-and then piggybacking the publishing

company off the financial and populist success of

that book and blog. This may still happen at some

point, but considering the current political

climate (June 2018 as I write this) I decided to

wait until I had enough resources to flee the

country if I’m declared an Enemy of The State.

       (Spending my middle and elderly years in

Guantanamo Bay isn’t really much of a plan for

spearheading a social educational reform

movement in the disciplines which are my

passion. Then again, my old mentor Nick Metas

always said some of the most important and

inspired mathematical research was done by

mathematicians who were political prisoners.

Nothing focuses the mind like 4 walls, darkness

and no future. )
     

     My main problems getting out of the box was

both lack of funds and confidence in my own

authorship.

The Scholarship Salvage Operation Part 1: Good Intentions

      Ultimately, 2 considerations therefore shape

the initial approach of the company.

    Firstly, while the existence of self -publishing

platforms has made true authorship a far easier

task then it was in previous generations, writing

an original work under my current circumstances

would have taken several years at least.

    Secondly, as a financially strapped student and

a protégé of Nick Metas, I have a long standing

love of older textbooks, particularly out of print

ones. I began researching the current copyright

holders of the book and whether or not it was

available. If the book had been out of print for so

many years, there was a chance the rights could

be obtained very cheaply-indeed, for free if the

book had fallen into the public domain without

anyone noticing. At the same time, I decided to

make up a list of mathematics and science

textbooks I loved that had likewise been out of

print for years or decades and might be obtained

cheaply.

    It turns out titles that could be obtained this

way were far fewer then I’d initially hoped. I won’t

go into the details here, but it turns out many

large publishing houses buy out of print title

copyrights with no intention of ever republishing

them. Not that they have no immediate plans, but

would like to at some point-they deliberately buy

the rights with the plan of never republishing

them.

The Scholarship Salvage Operation Part 2: Rage Against The Machine

    Apparently, this is done purely for the reason of

preventing independent small publishers, like I’m

aspiring to become, from publishing the works

and making a profit at all. The thinking behind it

is as simple as it is brutal: If these companies

can’t get off the ground in the first place, they

can’t grow to eat into their profits and control of

the market. Think about the sheer autocratic

thinking this betrays. They’re actively and

intentionally sabotaging new companies that

might exist in the future preemptively in the

distant possibility they might become competitive

with them.It’s stunning in its pointless amorality-

even by the sadistic standards of American business.

   (Think about this the next time someone decides

to give you the libertarian screed about the power

of the Almighty Free Market.)

      Fortunately, this isn’t a standard practice (not

yet, anyway) and some of the books on the list

were available. Even better, some of the older

books were in the public domain. Since I was

beginning with virtually nothing and copyright

was a legal and financial issue, these texts were

the natural and quickest way to begin.

     So now here we are-announcing the birth of a

major new and totally different player in

academic textbooks-Blue Collar Scholar. This

publisher will endeavor to not only make

advanced academic books truly affordable for

anyone with nothing else but curiosity and love of

learning as the basis of access, but to be the

beginning of a new populist movement in higher

education.

 Who’s Our Target Audience?

     The beginning of an answer can be found in yet

another quote from one of my favorite sources:

 The two biggest obstacles to the success of the Moore method (or, for that matter, of teaching of any kind) are students who don’t want to be there and students who want to be somewhere else. The two are not the same thing; let me explain. By students who don’t want to be there, I refer to required courses. If a student comes to me and asks my help to learn something that I already know, I am overjoyed. I am sure I can teach it to him, whatever it is, and I expect the process to be pleasant for both of us. If, however, he comes to me and says “I don’t really want to know this stuff, but it’s required that I get a C in it before I can go out and make a lot of money”, then I’m unhappy……….. I dream of the ideal university, full of students who are full of intellectual curiosity. The subset of those among them who take a mathematics course do so because they want to know mathematics. They may be future doctors or chemists or executives in a shirt factory, but, for whatever reason, they want to find out what this mathematics stuff is about, and they come to me free willing and ask me to teach it to them. Oh, joy!-Paul Halmos, I Want To Be A Mathematician

Unpacking the Quote: Geeks, Tourists And Scamstudents

Ok, there’s a lot to unpack here that’s relevant to

my purpose with BCS. (Bear with me.) To Halmos

then, there are essentially 3 kinds of students in

mathematics classes:

• Geeks who absolutely live for understanding

mathematics and its related subjects.

Students in other disciplines who, while not mathematics

or physical science students, have the same curiosity and

passion about learning in general. These “tourists” in

mathematics are willing to work hard and try and learn

something new, especially if you can convince them it’ll be

helpful in whatever field they chose.

• Scam-artists who break into the professors’

office to get the final exam the night before,

program the entire textbook in code into their

calculators and know a hundred other ways to

cheat. They mockingly laugh at students that

actually study and try and learn things to get high

marks while they get straight A’s while never

understanding a thing. And sure enough, most get

into Harvard medical, dental or business school

and eventually kill someone through either

cruelty or incompetence before calling their 1000

dollar an hour lawyers .

           So Again-Who Is Our Audience?

       Group (1) students will always be there and

sadly, they’ll always be in the relative minority.

These students will always buy, beg for and

borrow mathematics books to help them master

the subject as much as time allows, so we can

always count on these students to buy our wares

no matter how well-supported financially they

are.

  For the cash-strapped students that literally have

to choose between food and a textbook, textbooks

at the prices I’m offering are literally a lifesaver

for any kind of academic aspiration. These are

really the majority of our target audience. But my

point is that such students will always buy the

books. The lower the cost, the more volumes

they’ll buy on a given subject because all students

of math learn very quickly learning

simultaneously from several textbooks is always

better than one.

      Clearly, in the quote above, Halmos is

referring to students of types (2) and (3).

“Students that don’t want to be there” is type (2)

and “students that would rather be somewhere

else” are of type (3).

     Granted, I’m not describing these students in

anywhere near as polite a manner as Halmos is.

But having been on the receiving end of such

students’ mocking and watching them be

rewarded so heavily for their evil-well, you can

forgive me for being somewhat tactless.

I would argue that the American

academic system over the last 20 or so

years has virtually eliminated

students of type (2) and heavily

encouraged students of type (3).

             

       The Cheating Game
       

      It would take an entire book-which I hope to

write someday-to fully explain this statement and

all its implications. But Halmos almost certainly

hit the nail on the head about the fundamental

difference between students of type (2) and type

(3): Students of type (2) are true students and

have that most critical requirements for the

mastery of any academic discipline: curiosity.

They want to learn. They enjoy learning, even if

it’s in an area unrelated to their chosen pursuit

and they aren’t initially passionate about.

      Students of type (3) aren’t real students. They

aren’t really curious about anything. To them,

learning anything is for suckers. To them, this is a

game they need to play to win at any cost to get to

their real goals:

Money and temporal power.

     Because this is a society which doesn’t

encourage honesty or values-it encourages people

to devour each other-such students are rewarded

for cheating any way they can. Because of the

college debt deliberately shackling an entire

generation, most students who aren’t wealthy

simply won’t be able to stay in college no matter

how much they want to learn if they can’t

compete. Therefore, they simply either dispose of

their ethics and join group (3) or drop out.

   And most universities couldn’t be happier to

hand those kids A’s and look the other way about

cheating because it’s great for their bottom line.

They get to say they have kids with great GPAs and

get to double tuition accordingly.

        An American Rebirth

        Ok, getting off my soapbox, one of the major

things I’m hoping to accomplish with BCS is to

encourage creation of students of type (2). By

making math textbooks readily available at very

low prices, you remove one of the largest barriers

to encouraging students who are not math geeks

to learn some math. No non-wealthy pre-med or

business student is going to spend 200-300

dollars on the textbook and study guides in

addition to their tuition to take a calculus class.

   

        But when you make books available cheaply,

you greatly lower the cost barrier for taking those

extra courses. As a result, this in turn motivates

them to do so.

      Indeed, that brings us to the other major goal

of BCS- and that’s to encourage self-study among

students of all interests, levels and socioeconomic

status. Between the crushing student debt that

will plague the non-wealthy children of this

nation for a generation and the constantly rising

cost of higher education-and soon, any

education!- it’s very clear that a formal education

is simply an unattainable luxury for any infant

born today to such families.

Therefore, to prevent the dark future I imagined

above, they need to have sources readily available

for self-study.

I believe the Light of Education should be a

birthright of all who walk the Earth. It’s to make

this goal a reality above all that BCS exists.

 

 

 

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