ALLEA is All European Academies of Science – including the humanities. Together with the European Science Foundation they defined and maintain the European Code of Conduct of Research Integrity (2011).

The first observation is: there might be a subtle distinction between scientific integrity and research integrity.

For, we are in the realm of law and litigation now. ALLEA & ESF employ and represent hundreds of universities and research institutes, and one of their key issues is reputation. Parliaments will not want to squander taxpayer money on dubious institutes. Given the often abstract nature of scientific output, one of the main substitute criteria is trust. In other words: the boat should not be rocked. One of the pillars for public trust is the wise use of law. Scientists might claim that trust can be built upon science, but the lawyers employing them will explain that science itself on occasion can rock the boat – like saying that the Earth isn’t flat – so the legal pillar is sturdiest.

The European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity

The European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity (2011)

How ALLEA / ESF see the world

ALLEA / ESF (page 10) distinguish ethics relating to the external world (say, when you work on an atomic bomb) and ethics internal to the scientific process (say, you discover plagiarism w.r.t. that work for an atomic bomb). For the latter they use the notion of the scientific record. When you deal with that scientific record then there is research. ALLEA are like librarians maintaining an archive: when that archive is tainted, then there is a breach of internal reseach integrity. They state:

“There is, of course, no perfect watershed between the two categories. (…) but in the light of a discussion on a Code of Conduct the distinction may be clarifying.” (page 6) (my emphasis)

The weblog will hold that the distinction cannot be clarifying when the borders are vague. The “may be” is unwarranted, since the vague distinction can only be confusing. It is demagoguery to require a “perfect” watershed. We only require a distinction that works. Conclusion: ALLEA is on a wrong track.

Let us follow their track to see where it leads. Let us suppose that a scientist is busy 90% of the time with unavoidables like reading up, refereeing, meetings and conventions, email, discussions with research colleagues, writing research proposals or judging them, and 10% with writing and editing own research papers. ALLEA uses the term “research integrity” that deals with the supposed scientific record, and thus focuses on this 10%. Nobody will argue that this 10% is unimportant but focusing on it neglects an important part of scientific activity. A scientist might be a bully in discussions with colleagues but when the research papers are okay then ALLEA will legally support him on the issue of ‘research integrity’.

Subsequently, ALLEA formulates a code of conduct for this narrowed-down ‘research integrity’. The positive elements can be listed but are not so interesting legally. Few people would sue a professor for doing the proper things, though it might be an issue in some countries. Legally interesting is only the misconduct.

Subsequently ALLEA uses its magic wand and narrows this ‘research misconduct’ down to five issues (page 6). PM. My background on this issue is methodology, and in that field the term “falsification” is opposite to “confirmation”, which issue refers to Popper’s criterion of falsifiability. It is very strange to see the term “falsification” used in the sense below. The ALLEA / ESF paper wasn’t written by people coming from a background in methodology. My suggestion is that “manipulation” is a better term.

ALLEA / ESF code page 6

European Code, page 6

Nicole Janz (2015) wonders whether these categories aren’t too simple. She presents the following diagram by Rene Custers. ALLEA / ESF leave out the Questionable Research Practices. 

Slide1-data-secrecyBut this still is a weak criticism. In supplement to Janz and Custers, I can remark in stronger criticism of ALLEA.

  • A major case of misconduct is to assume authority in a field when you don’t have it. Check Linus Pauling and high doses of vitamin C. When this isn’t seen as misconduct then scientific institutes cannot be blamed when their employees step out of line.
  • ALLEA’s reference to whistleblowers may be incorrect. Whistleblowing applies to non-scientific employees who normally would remain silent. A scientist however has to speak, and the employer might try to enforce silence: which is censorship.
  • There is this case in which a “book review” is abused for misrepresentation and slander. When a scientist should give a fair evaluation when refereeing an article for a journal, then this should also hold for a book review that is published directly. A book review allows more freedom of judgement, but misrepresentation and slander don’t belong to that. However, commissions of integrity at TU Delft and KNAW / LOWI allowed this to happen – see here.

This Dutch LOWI is called in Dutch “Landelijk Orgaan Wetenschappelijke Integriteit”. This name is fishy and comes with the continuous need to explain that they do something else than looking into scientific integrity:

  • Google Translate of LOWI gives “National Board for Scientific Integrity” – and in this case I agree. You would expect that they do this. But they don’t.
  • LOWI itself has an English webpage, giving “The Netherlands Board on Research Integrity” – which plays into the distinction between “science” and “research”. In English they already better specify what they are doing, once you have grasped the language game that they are playing.
  • My suggestion is that they should call themselves “Dutch Office for Specifically Identified Breaches of Scientific Integrity”, since they only look into three breaches (fabrication, manipulation, plagriarism) at only some institutes (e.g. not at national planning bureaus). This proper name clarifies that there is still a lot to be done. This issue of a name is not just the choice between “Tom” and “Harry”: we are discussing the title of a book.

ALLEA has been neglecting the protection of individual scientists (who meet with censorship) and has been focusing on protecting the Institutes: (a) to generate the legal environment to resolve obvious cases of fabrication, manipulation and plagiarism that cause public worry, (b) by allowing institutes to censor criticism by employees, (c) by neglecting breaches that would cause a stir if they were tackled.

This weblog found these cases of assumed authority:

  1. Research mathematicians (RM) can claim authority in the field of mathematics education (ME) while they have no training for it. An old case in Holland is Hans Freudenthal (1905-1990), a recent case in Holland is Jan van de Craats. The ALLEA rules might maintain that Van de Craats didn’t do anything wrong in his field of research mathematics (RM). The problem however is that he embarked upon another field that he has no training for, namely the didactics of mathematics in primary education. ALLEA might dismiss it as a “context in which research takes place”. ALLEA then makes a deliberate choice to neglect serious breaches of science. (It so happens that Van de Craats wrote a paper for such a journal Tijdschrift voor Orthopedagogiek 2009, and one might say that this article isn’t properly researched as it should have been. See namely here, of which I informed him in 2008 (but I have no license for primary education either). But the real breach is that Van de Craats has been presenting his assumed authority all over, e.g. to Parliament where representatives might think that a professor of mathematics would know about these issues.)
  2. Another case is Klaas van Egmond, in this presentation for Dutch Parliament. He introduces himself as an “environmental scientist” (“milieukundige”) and then proceeds with discussing monetary and financial economics. Listeners might think that economics is included in “environmental science”. Thus he should have said: “I am no economist” – whence everyone would have been alerted to the question why his personal confusions on money and banking would be so important to inform Parliament about.
Robert Merton (1910-2003) and Adriaan de Groot (1914-2006)

Thus ALLEA / ESF are off-track on scientific integrity. What would be the proper track ?

The ALLEA / ESF code page10 refers to Robert Merton (1973), The sociology of science: theoretical and empirical investigations. I would prefer to also refer to Adriaan de Groot (1982) Academie en Forum, with his development of Forum Theory, for which there is no English translation to my knowledge. See these two links on this weblog: one and two.

The key point is this:

  • ALLEA / ESF are on the wrong track since they define cases of misconduct as exceptions while they are rather extremes of common practice.
  • Thus, the key approach is to improve the Forum. When the Forum works well, the extremes are prevented (caught in the early stages of development). This will happen for a wider range than the few selected by ALLEA / ESF – and litigation would be reduced. Protection of the individual scientist against abuse within the Forum should allow the individual to function better in the Forum.

When research papers and books disappear behind (publisher) pay walls, then this reduces the possibility of criticism. Instead, open source publishing should be the norm, peer review can take place after publication, and criticism can be used to determine ratings. That the scientific community is so slow in changing from closed shop publication to open source publication, can be explained by the distaste for criticism.

Some researchers plea for open source publication, and a recent proposal by Arjen van Witteloostuijn is to restore Popper’s pride of place: “Change the way we conduct, report and publish our research” with a manifesto. However, the simple notion would be that the university or its library would provide for the publication outlet. The employer is also the publisher. There is really no need to set up new publishers. What is needed is to develop the Forum. For this idea, one should read De Groot’s texts on this. Somehow the community of psychologists in Holland never got around in making sure that Forum Theory got a proper translation into English.

PM. Incidently, Van Witteloostuijn’s embrace of Popper may be ill-advised. See here for Popper’s oversight. See here how Tilburg University (where Van Witteloostuijn is employed) sacked in indecent manner a fine expert in methodology of science, Bert Hamminga.

Pieter Drenth (1935), president of KNAW 1990-1996, president of ALLEA 2000-2006

How could it have happened, that ALLEA / ESF got off-track on scientific integrity ?

The ALLEA / ESF code came about by inspiration by Pieter Drenth (1935) (now 80 years of age), president of ALLEA 2000-2006, and former president of Dutch KNAW 1990-1996. ALLEA / ESF explain this on page 19, where they speak about “scientific and research integrity” which elsewhere is narrowed down.

European Code, page 19

European Code, page 19

Quite to my surprise, Pieter Drenth appears to be a psychologist, interested in experiments and testing, and appears to be acquainted with Adriaan de Groot (1914-2006), whom we have been discussing in two recent weblog entries.

Drenth’s interest in good science is obvious. In this “digital memory” interview from 2014 (in Dutch) he explains that he rejected pseudo-science like graphology, and instead relied on statistics and testing. In minute 19 we see reference to Adriaan de Groot and Otto Selz, whom we mentioned too.

Interview with Pieter Drenth (1935) in 2014 (screenshot)

Interview with Pieter Drenth (1935) in 2014 (screenshot)

This is Drenth’s book on testing theory, 4th edition. We observed that psychometricians in Holland have been testing arithmetic skills at elementary schools while neglecting to study the relevant field of science, namely didactics of mathematics. I have not checked how Drenth’s book deals with validity, perhaps it can never be clear enough.

Quite to my regret, Drenth was president of KNAW in 1990-1996, when I sent KNAW these letters (in Dutch) about the breach of integrity of science by the directorate of the Dutch Central Planning Bureau (CPB), i.e. the reason why this weblog advises to a boycott of Holland till the issue is resolved.

The letters are addressed to the board of KNAW (director Moen), and we can only suppose that the issue was also discussed with Drenth. (For these letters, see here under “KNAW”.) (A contact-person has also been Dirk de Hen, now webmaster at ENRIO: European Network of Research Integrity Officers.)

Back then, I only had digital copies of my own letters, and it wasn’t yet so easy to scan the hardcopy replies. I haven’t found the time for this scanning and wonder about the use of it. The reply generally states that KNAW does not see itself as an involved party, within a juridical issue between an employer (CPB) and an employee (me).

  • This KNAW reply fully misses the notion that the CPB directorate abuses employment law to enforce this breach in scientific integrity.
  • This KNAW reply doesn’t explicitly state that KNAW deals with the universities and not with institutes like CPB at the central government. However, KNAW could have taken a lead role in giving advice to the government and the judges, even unasked for, about what matters in cases of integrity of science. Thus Drenth was at an ALLEA conference in 1996 speaking about “freedom and responsibility” but he wasn’t in the courtroom explaining to judges that putting me in a separate room and blocking discussion of my papers isn’t exactly freedom of scientific research.
  • Drenth’s dismal hypocrisy may have set the example for later KNAW presidents like Robbert Dijkgraaf (now at IAS, Princeton).
  • This KNAW reply in 1992-1995 doesn’t specify whether the board has asked for informal advice from economists, e.g. the fellows at KNAW itself. Drenth at VU might have asked VU professor of economics F.A.G. den Butter. Den Butter happened to be involved in a wrong manner, see here 1991 and here 2013. There is no information about such potential contacts. But it seems rather clear that Den Butter didn’t ask KNAW to get involved and protect the integrity of science.

Thus, unfortunately:

  • Drenth’s presidency of KNAW 1990-1996 and of ALLEA 2000-2006 was a failure and no success.
  • Drenth’s international prestige as a defender of scientific integrity makes it very difficult for me to explain to the rest of the world that there is such a case in Holland and that Drenth has been neglecting it. Strong points in my argument are: (1) The ALLEA code of conduct is deficient in both logic and understanding of scientific integrity, (2) It isn’t so difficult (psychometrically) to test that there is censorship of science by the directorate of CPB: see here and here (in Dutch).

PM 1. It isn’t known whether the situation in other countries w.r.t. integrity of science was so dismal that Drenth caused an improvement anyhow. PM 2. It isn’t known either whether other countries were hesitant to join in. The approach to limit “research misconduct” to only some categories may have pushed the wrong buttons to persuade others.

I am trying to understand what is happening. How can someone with an interest in proper science neglect this censorship ? The interview shows Pieter Drenth as someone who always worked hard and didn’t have to apply for jobs since others asked him whether he would like a job, do a Ph. D., become professor, dean, president. He always worked in the tailwind of the mainstream developments in psychological testing. His knowledge of mathematics would be at what is now a bachelor level, but it would still have gained the admiration of those around him who didn’t have this, and he has been at risk of some vanity. His “conflict” with the “powerful” graphologists was quite a sensation for him since it seemed as a “conflict” but in fact the graphologists were already losing from international science and its computers. For him it might be conceptually difficult to understand what it is, when a directorate turns against science, abuses its power, and censors science.

Listening to Theodorakis & Ritsos: Lianotragouda

There is a General Theory of Knowledge (GTOK) implicit in former weblog entries. It can better be made explicit. Let me first draw the diagram and then discuss it. Relevant weblogs are:

A General Theory of Knowledge (GTOK)

A General Theory of Knowledge (GTOK)

The diagram with above weblog entries is rather self-explanatory.

  • What I may need to explain as an author is how this relates to my own work.
  • A nice introduction to epistemology, at the level of the international baccalaureate (IB) programme is the book by Richard van de Lagemaat (CUP, now a new 2015 edition).
  • A general principle is that philosophy should use mathematics education as its empirical field of reference. When philosophy hangs in the air then it is at risk of getting lost. The education of mathematics has adequate challenge for dealing with abstract notions.

Some main steps in the diagram are:

  1. Jean Piaget introduced stages of development. Epistemology tends to focus on the last stage, with a fully developed rational being who wonders what can be known and how this can be achieved. It makes sense to distinguish stages in such questions however. Pierre van Hiele removed Piaget’s dependence of stages upon age, and turned the issue into a logical framework for epistemology. With the Definition & Reality methodology this framework is also empirically relevant. This is also very useful for the link of philosophy to education. See Pierre van Hiele and epistemology.
  2. Karl Popper turned Otto Selz’s methodology for psychology into a philosophy of science in general. This uses falsifiability as a demarcation between science and non-science. Since the Anglo-saxon world tends to distinguish science and the humanities (humaniora), the general term “theory of knowledge” (epistemology) will do.
  3. Selz inspired Adriaan de Groot to create his experiments with chess masters. Later De Groot continued in methodology, and it seems that he is the one who introduced the empirical cycle. His book Methodologie ends in depressing awareness that science cannot establish truth as in mathematics. Thus De Groot advances the uplifting Forum Theory, that focuses on the rules of conduct within the scientific community. While we may not discover the real truth we still can ask why we should trust these guys and gals.
  4. The dashed arrow from Van Hiele to De Groot is the unfortunate failed transfer of the theory of levels of insight. De Groot refers to the thesis but missed this notion, see this discussion.
  5. My book A Logic of Exceptions (ALOE) (1981, 2007, 2011) is already deep into methodology. ALOE looks into the logical paradoxes and suggests that empirical sense may help to get rid of mathematical nonsense. There is a distinction between Gödel’s theorems and the interpretation that he gave to them. For the issue of volition, determinism and chance there is no experiment that allows to distinguish what is empirically the case. (I haven’t yet looked at the interpretation of the recent experiment with Bell’s equation at TU Delft, see the websites by Ronald Hanson and Richard Gill.)
  6. The abbreviation DRGTPE stands for the book Definition & Reality in the General Theory of Political Economy. This 2000, 2005, 2011 book had a precursor already called Background Papers to DRGTPE that collected papers from 1989-1992. This essentially gave the framework for political economy, in both mathematical model and empirical methodology. The 1994 book Trias Politica & Centraal Planbureau (TP & CPB) (in Dutch) referred to De Groot’s Forum Theory to clinch the argument for an Economic Supreme Court (ESC). Subsequently, DRGTPE 2000 contains a constitutional amendment how the ESC should satisfy such Forum rules.
  7. The news in November 2015 is that I have grown more aware of the importance of Forum Theory for the selection of definitions for applications. This element is implicit in the earlier development but it is useful to state it explicitly, given the importance of the role of definitions. Research groups might be characterised by the definitions that they select. It can depend upon the quality of the rules how flexible research groups are with experiments and adverse information.

Thus, to restate in text what is depicted in the last box in the diagram: This 2015 GTOK has the standard logic (with ALOE), methodology (with Forum Theory), and epistemology, and has more awareness of:

  • levels of insight or understanding
  • Definition & Reality methodology
  • Forum Theory is especially required for the application of definitions.

Some applications of this GTOK are:

(1) My forecast in 1990 (CPB memo 90-III-38) was that unemployment would continue to be high unless Parliament would redesign both the structure of policy making and some policies and markets. I repeated this forecast in 1992, 1994, 2000 extending with other risks like on environment and financial markets, and the condition of the Economic Supreme Court. In the period 1990-2007 Holland seemed to have a lower level of unemployment, which might be a cause for people not paying attention to the analysis. This lower level wasn’t achieved by better policies but by welfare payments (financed by natural gas) and by exporting unemployment by means of maintaining low wages (beggar thy neighbour). The 2007+ crisis and return to higher unemployment confirms my analysis. Though a major element relies on definitions, the forecast as a whole still was falsifiable. Of course the forecast was vague, and not specified with the year 2007, but we are dealing with structure. This also explains why I emphasize that Dirk Bezemer misinforms Sweden and Dutch Parliament: because he keeps silent about the theoretical confirmation given by the empirical experiment of 1990-2007.

(2) The scheme allows us to deal with the confusions by Stellan Ohlsson (abstract to concrete) and Ben Wilbrink (Van Hiele’s theory of levels wouldn’t be empirical).

(3) The scheme allows us to deal with the problem of universals. Van Hiele “demonstrated” the general applicability of the theory of levels by using the example of geometry. (And geometry uses demonstration as a method of proof too.) He mentioned that the theory had general applicability and mentioned chemistry and didactics as other examples, without working out those examples. Freudenthal neglected Van Hiele’s general claim, put him into the box of “geometry only”, and claimed that he, Freudenthal himself, had shown the applicability to mathematics in general. (See here.) Of course, Freudenthal also had the problem that a universal proof is impossible, since you would need to check each field of knowledge. However, now with the definition  reality methodology, we can take the levels of insight as a matter of definition. Like the law of conservation of energy defines what we regard as “energy”. The problem shifts to application. For this, there is Forum theory.

Paris has 129 deaths and 352 injured people: what can one say ?

Let me refer to Charlie Hebdo, and then proceed with freedom and democracy.

This weblog proposes an improvement in freedom and democracy by the creation of a constitutional Economic Supreme Court (ESC) based in economic science, for each country. This will reduce the possibilities for politicians to manipulate information. This will allow a return to full employment. One likely effect is that the ESCs will exchange information themselves, which will allow co-ordination, and which may cause that the euro might work better without the need of a political union. See the paper Money as gold versus money as water (2013).

In 2012 I reported that Dirk Bezemer disinforms Sweden. Now he disinforms Dutch Parliament.

Before we look at the Bezemer screenshot we need some background.

A short background on money theory 1936-2015

Before you say anything on money, first read this booklet edited by Robert Gordon: Milton Friedman’s Monetary Framework (1975). I side with Don Patinkin that Friedman has highly confused the discussion, apparently by desiring to sound original, but basically (1) using phrases from Keynes’s theory of money, that relies on dynamics and allows flexibility in policy, and (2) not understanding dynamics and advising an Austrian policy of fixed money (gold) anyway. Keynes’s theory distinguishes the motives: transactions, precautionary and speculative store of value. The difference between Friedman’s comparative statics and Keynes’s dynamics is that the latter better deals with uncertainty (obviously from an unknown future).

PM. We must distinguish between the early Keynes of A tract on monetary reform and the later Keynes of the General Theory. The later Keynes did not refer to ideas of others as he should have, see here. The proposal to have an Economic Supreme Court is a generalisation of the General Theory, by bringing economic policy making into the model.


MF on MF


  • In 1936 Irving Fisher proposed – the “Chicago Plan” – to require banks to have 100% reserve backing for deposits. Banks would provide credit from their own reserves rather than from creating money, and become much more critical about whom to lend to. (Though Fisher didn’t see it that way, for us it is easy to get 100% reserves: the government supplement the difference between the current 4% to the required 100% by merely printing money, get proportional shares, and gradually step out using dividends and selling those shares.)
  • Holland had a Post- Cheque- and Giro-Service (bank) that facilitated the payment and transaction system, and little else. It was merged with other entities into ING Bank.
  • In a working paper at the IMF Jaromir Benes and Michael Kumhof (2012) reconsidered the Chicago Plan. Benes is still at the Fund, Kumhof is now senior research advisor a the Bank of England.
  • Before you start embracing that paper, see whether you have an answer to the criticism by Detlev Schlichter.
  • My own paper Money as gold versus money as water (2013) suggested that transaction deposits and money might as well be managed by the Central Banks, so that the payment system would never be in danger, as was the case in 2008. For the payment system there is no need for bank reserves and deposit insurance. In times of uncertainty, customers always have the option to transfer their funds into deposits in the payment system at the Central Bank. For commercial banks: savings and investments can be matched for their maturities. Investments depend upon unstable expectations, and democratic nations could adapt their constitutions with national Economic Supreme Courts (ESCs) so that the system of ESCs could provide for stability in those expectations.
  • Holland has an initiative to get a new full reserve transactions bank. Their website features some of the same names mentioned below. The problem with the website is that it doesn’t specify the costs of developing and running the software and other investment and operation costs. They require 16,000 people to open an account at EUR 50 to get started, which generates EUR 800,000: but all this money may well be lost to R&D.

Intermediate conclusion: The world should never allow this risk at the payment system like happened in 2008. Having this risk gives too much bargaining power to the banks. Thus a system change is advisable. How should the new system look like ?

A short background on the economic fringe 1936-2015

Enter the economic fringe. I discussed the economic fringe in 2014, and how there were interesting connections from gold bugs to the Wizard of Oz to Ayn Rand’s disciple Alan Greenspan. The fringe is obsessed with money and banks, and rather than studying economics they resort to meetings, petitions, websites, and what have you.

A prime objective of the fringe is to be taken seriously. They avoid economists who speak about censorship of economic science. Instead they will embrace (often defunct) academics who seem to treat them seriously.

Obviously the fringe doesn’t exist only in Holland but it is a world movement, see this “Positive Money” campaign in the UK and its connections to various other countries. This Positive Money website has a board of advisors with qualified economists Victoria Chick and Richard Werner, but, again, the fringe likes to be taken seriously.

Who wishes a quick introduction into this issue might read Edin Mujagic (in Dutch) or Chris Dillow (in English). Dillow advises state real investment banks, which is also my advice.

Educating the masses on economics: both official and fringe failures

One cannot say that economists, the textbooks and the Central Banks do a very good job in educating people on money and banking.

  • The European System of Central Banks might have warned the population that the creation of the euro without the proper political union was inadvisable.
  • Dutch Wim Duisenberg was happy to become the first president of the ECB instead of killing it.
  • The role of being Cassandra fell upon Bernard Connolly at the EU Commission who wrote The rotten heart of Europe in 1995. He played his role excellently: for like Cassandra people never listened to him.
  • Of course the fringe avoided Connolly too, since this would conflict with their desire to be taken seriously, and dine, drink and dance with the serious people.
  • Author Joris Luyendijk of course tries to educate people in his own journalistic manner – see a book title “This cannot be true”. He is more like a grasshopper, jumping from one topic to another, and see how he can turn his own bewilderment into a bestselling book.
A Dutch petition for a change in money

The Dutch fringe set up a petition for a change in the monetary system. Dutch law requires 40,000 signatures and then Parliament is due to discuss the topic and take a stand. They got more than 100,000 signatures. There was a theatre play about the rotten bank system, that always helps.

Of course, the fringe petition does not refer to my own scientifically based petition that advises to a parliamentary enquiry into the censorship of economic science since 1990 by the directorate of the Dutch CPB: today 14 signatures since the restart in September 2011. The fringe believes that it is an important issue that bank directors can lie to their customers, but it is not important that government directors can lie to the government and the people (or perhaps the fringe thinks that government directors always speak the truth).

(The CPB director who started the censorship in 1990 is Gerrit Zalm, later involved in the DSBank debacle, now CEO at ABN AMRO Bank. I will not try to wonder how the fringe deals with this change in position.)

The session at the House of Parliament

The session at Parliament of October 14 2015 was chaired by Pieter Duisenberg (1967), son of Wim. Parliament has been so kind to make a professional recording of the session. The 2:22 hours youtube video is here. And yes, I watched it all.

Members of the House Committee on Finance participating in this were: P.H. Omtzigt (econometrician), N.P.M. Klein (lawyer), M.L. Thieme (lawyer, only shortly present), H. Nijboer (economist), A.P.C. (Tony) van Dijck (technical management), M.G.J. Harbers (no degree, bit of economics), C.J. Schouten (MSc in business adm), A.Z. Merkies (economist), W. Koolmees (economist), P.J. Duisenberg (economist).

The first part of the session: the fringe

The first part of the session was with: Edgar Wortmann (lawyer, social activist rather than lobbyist), Luuk de Waal Malefijt (programmer, intrigued by bitcoin), George van Houts (actor and playwright) and Martijn Jeroen van der Linden (MSc in business administration and now Ph. D. student at TU Delft on money).

Given the Duisenberg family connection, one is reminded of other possible family connections: same names for euro-parliamentarian 2004-2014 Corien Wortmann-Kool and President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe 2005-2008, Rene van der Linden. Are these family indeed ? It doesn’t matter in itself. It is a small world anyhow. I have had an uncle in Parliament too.

The real question is: working on a Ph. D. on money at TU Delft ? Does the Technical University Delft have the knowledge to supervise a thesis on money ? This must be seriously doubted. Curiously, MJvdL in Parliament suggests that the principles are clear and that details are a matter of policy choice, while the thesis proposal suggests that some issues still require scientific attention and resolution. From the TU Delft website:

“In 2004 Martijn Jeroen van der Linden graduated from Tilburg University where he studied Business Administration. Thereafter he became a management trainee at ING where he mostly worked in the field of strategic management. Since the financial crash of 2008 new economic thinking has become more and more important to him. During the last five years, van der Linden has had various jobs in this field  ─ among others as coordinator of the Dutch platform for a green and social economy, freelance researcher and co-founder of an NGO named ‘Our Money’ (Ons Geld).

In February 2014  van der Linden started as a researcher at the EU-project Creating Economic Space for Social Innovation and as a PhD-candidate at TU Delft. His thesis is concerned with the phenomenon of money: its origins, its nature, its design, its technology, its impact on the relations between individuals in society and its ability to empower individuals. The overall aim is to answer the question how the functioning of the monetary system could be improved in terms of equity, freedom, and efficiency.” (Website MJvdL at TU Delft, retrieved November 16 2015)

These are somewhat petty comments: I already encountered Van der Linden as co-ordinator of the Platform DSE in 2011-2014, on which I warned scientists in 2013 about the likely abuse of their credibility for dubious purposes. Sociologist Frans Kerstholt is related to that group, and earlier “reviewed” my book (2004) De Ontketende Kiezer  and later “reviewed” Paul Krugman (2012) End This Depression Now.

But it is more than just petty: A reason to pay attention to this is that the Socalist Party (SP) has a strategy of infiltration. Activists can create actions officially unrelated to the SP, but still generating attention for views expounded by the SP. Parliament may think that they have a discussion with concerned citizens but this may actually be a hazy front for the SP. See my earlier text on the Dutch Taliban.

Having watched the video you might want to look into the position papers of these four speakers, but you might also feel glad that you are no parliamentarian and don’t have to.

A general complaint is that people don’t know enough about the system of money – and guess why. The fringe may also be blamed. A universe of concerned citizens is terrorized by maniaks with agenda’s of their own, intellectual slaves and addicts of some defunct economist.

The second part with scientists: Dirk Bezemer (University of Groningen)

Let us jump to the point where Dirk Bezemer disinforms Parliament. He tells that:

“Money is a form of credit.”

Dirk Bezemer disinforms Parliament, minute 1.42 (Screenshot)

Dirk Bezemer disinforms Dutch Parliament, hour 1:42 (Screenshot)

His example is that he himself writes a note of credit – “You get EUR 10,000 from Dirk Bezemer.” – and then gives this to someone who gives him EUR 10,000 in return. Then he states: “And when that note is accepted in general then it becomes money.”

Why is this disinformative ? Because:

  • The crux of fiat money is that the issuer is not under the obligation to give EUR 10,000. Thus, if someone would have that note, go to Dirk, and offer him the note “You get EUR 10,000 from Dirk Bezemer.” then Dirk would not have to give EUR 10,000, but may offer another note: “You get EUR 10,000 from Dirk Bezemer.” This might be a note of a different date and different handwriting, but it would still be a note and not EUR 10,000.
  • What is correct in Bezemer’s explanation: what turns such notes into money is that they are accepted as payment in general. This doesn’t happen so easily. The European Central Bank makes notes called “euro’s”, and changes euro’s into euro’s. These euro’s are supported by: (a) They are legal payment. When someone offers euro’s to settle a debt, then you cannot legally refuse. (b) They can be used to pay your tax. This explains that euro’s are more common as money than notes “You get EUR 10,000 from Dirk Bezemer.”.
  • Indeed, if the government buys your services for EUR 10,000 and later you pay your taxes with those EUR 10,000, then there is an exchange of credit in the form described by Bezemer. The original EUR 10,000 might be replaced by a note “You get EUR 10,000 from the Government.”, which you then hand in to pay your taxes. Thus, Bezemer might argue that he did not really disinform Dutch Parliament. I would agree with this interpretation if and only if all money is used to pay taxes. When the government buys stuff with notes that are not used to pay taxes then Bezemer’s criterion doesn’t work. I would also require that the members of Parliament would be able to explain the issue in these terms. When they cannot, then they are clearly misinformed. For example, in hour 1:30 Pieter Omtzigt asks what the value foundation of the new form of money would be: gold, foreign currency, real estate, forests ? I am afraid that he didn’t get a clear reply.

Most disinformative is, of course, that Bezemer doesn’t inform Parliament about the censorship of economic science since 1990 by the directorate of the Dutch CPB, which I informed him about. Can you imagine: an economic scientist, who doesn’t protest against censorship ? In a democracy, with free speech ? An academic with academic freedom ? Not telling Parliament that this censorship should stop ?

The second part with scientists: Klaas van Egmond (University of Utrecht)

Klaas van Egmond (1946) is an engineer in food technology, who turned to environmental issues, became head of the National Planning Agency for Nature and Environment in 2004-2008 (and actually its precursor since 1989), and must be a professor emeritus but apparently with a new professorship ? His position paper is here.

I am sorry to say that he doesn’t really have strong credentials in economics.

  • The eye-opener may be that Van Egmond (hour 1:08 and 1:44-1:47) uses the Fisher equation of exchange P Y = M V, but confuses the level growth (ΔV) of the money stock M with the level growth Δ(P Y) of gross GDP. A kind interpretation is that he takes a priori that velocity V = 1, but of course one must use the empirical value of V. This point was spotted by Parliamentarian Pieter Omtzigt but not taken up by the others. In my estimate ≈ 2 (see Money as gold versus money as water). In particular, in hour 2:05-2:08, Van Egmond holds that “if GDP growth is 1.5% then 1.5% of GDP must be added to the money stock” (my translation). And, using that Dutch GDP is EUR 600 bn: “if you desire 2% inflation then you can spend another EUR 12 billion” (my translation). However, if V = 2 then seigniorage is only EUR 6 billion. He suggests that the government could use seigniorage to cover government expenditure, but Money as gold versus money as water shows that seigniorage will be required to finance the payments system (people, buildings, computers). Van Egmond states the same confusion in his position paper (in Dutch).
Point 3 in the position paper by Van Egmond (Dutch original)

Point 3 in the position paper by Van Egmond & De Vries (Dutch original)

  • Van Egmond (hour 1:06) explains the 2007+ crisis from a co-ordination failure. I tend to agree. What we saw is that non-economists like politicians or deluded bureaucrats, also those turned academics, like Van Egmond started meddling in a system that they had no training for. This however is not the analysis that Van Egmond presents.
  • Van Egmond (hour 1:05) praises Dirk Bezemer for his article No one saw this coming (2009), and gives the wrong summary: “how it could be that economists didn’t see the crisis coming” while in fact Bezemer states that some economists saw it coming. His paper debunks statements by officials like Alan Greenspan that nobody saw it coming.
  • Van Egmond also misses my criticism on Bezemer, to the effect that Bezemer focuses on Hyman Minsky but doesn’t mention my protest against the censorship of economic science since 1990 by the directorate of the Dutch Central Planning Bureau.
  • Van Egmond apparently never really understood Roefie Hueting’s analysis on environmentally sustainable national income, see here – while Van Egmond was head of that national environmental agency.
  • Van Egmond has a book that also discusses the relationship between economics and religion, and given his lack of knowlegde of economics, one would hope that he at least knows something about religion: but then it would be less interesting from a scientific point of view.
The second part with scientists: commercial banking and the supervisors

We also have Teunis Brosens (ING Bank, mentioned above), Jan Marc Berk (DNB, European System of Central Banks) and Reinier Pollmann (AFM, supervisor of financial markets).

Their comments are defensive. More like Public Relations. Explaining what current policy is and why it should work. Increase capital and liquidity requirements, within the framework of European competition (going as slow as the weakest partner to prevent unfair competition). Berk allows for the option of a transactions money bank, like the earlier Postbank, but warns that it must have an earnings model to be viable. They all warn that people are short of memory and will tend to switch to the risky banks that promise higher returns.

Their testimonies are inadequate. That they are guardians of the current system should not turn them into protectors of the current system. The proper reply would be that some elements are useful to look into, and require scientific testing. See Money as gold versus money as water. Parliament should insist that the regulatory bodies do research in these alternative schemes. The world should not put itself at the risk to the payment system as in 2008, and thus these supervisors should design a sound alternative.

Sustainable Finance Lab at Utrecht University

A major source for all this nonsense is the Sustainable Finance Lab (SFL) at Utrecht University, an initiative in 2010 by said Klaas van Egmond, and “prof. dr.” Herman Wijffels (CEO of Rabobank in 1999) and Peter Blom (CEO Triodos Bank since 1997). These three observed the role of the banks in the 2007+ crisis and found in Utrecht University a willing victim for their potpourri of confusion, distraction, religion, self-importance, and need for attention and recognition. Nothing more wonderful than a honorary Ph. D. degree and professorship. The academic environment apparently doesn’t require a financial statement where the money comes from.

Originally, sustainability was intended for environmental sustainability only. Given the popularity of the phrase “sustainable” (Dutch “duurzaam”) suddenly everything had to be called that way. For this reason Roefie Hueting nowadays speaks about environmental sustainabilityto emphasize what the idea is really about. Herman Wijffels supports Hueting but also distracts from Hueting by this SFL and by lobbying for the banking sector in the mean time – see this criticism (in Dutch) how Wijffels saves the banks (higher reserves) and destroys the economy (less lending for investments).

Earlier, I have warned about this Sustainable Finance Lab too (in Dutch) and informed them about this warning. Obviously, they didn’t reply. They now continue to misinform Dutch Parliament, as they did their students.

It may be useful to reproduce the current list of members of the SFL, to track the disinformation from one to the other to the outside world. They are all economists except when stated differently: Harald Benink, Dirk Bezemer, Peter Blom (economist, banker, no scientist), Arnoud Boot, Klaas van Egmond (no economist), Ewald Engelen (no economist), Marleen Janssen Groesbeek (unknown background, journalist ?), Arjo Klamer (economist, parttime elderman for the Socialist Party), Clemens Kool, Karen Maas, Mark Sanders (economist, also with the “scientific bureau” of party D66, confused on voting and Kenneth Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem, see here how D66 misinforms Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats in the UK), Hans Schenk, Esther-Mirjam Sent (thesis done with Kenneth Arrow, mathematician), Irene van Staveren, Rens van Tilburg, Bert de Vries (unknown background), Francis Weyzig, Herman Wijffels (economist, banker, no scientist).

None of these scientists apparently looked at the paper Money as gold versus money as water. There was a newspaper report that stated that they had consulted 70 experts on full reserve banking – and I grant that I am no expert on this but merely wrote that paper – see my email to Charlotte van Dixhoorn.

There is also the paper by Van Egmond & De Vries (2015), “Dynamics of a sustainable financial-economic system”, that mentions only these two authors, who apparently are already at advanged age. Are there no Ph.D. students who collect the data, run the software and produce the graphics ? Page 4 states: “The model builds on work done by Godley and Lavoie (2007),Hallegatte et al. (2008), Yamaguchi (2010), Van Dixhoorn (2013) and others.” but when there are in-house collaborators working on the model then one would expect co-authors.

The UK connection: Positive Money (site designed by Luuk de Waal Malefijt)

One of the references by Van Egmond & De Vries is to Jackson & Dyson 2012:

“Andrew Jackson holds a BSc in Economics and a MSc in Development Economics from the University of Sussex, and is currently studying for a PhD at the University of Surrey. He is a co-author of the book “Where Does Money Come From? A guide to the UK monetary and banking system” with Josh Ryan-Collins and Tony Greenham from the New Economics Foundation, and Professor Richard Werner from the University of Southampton.”

  • Ben Dyson appears to have no degree. Under the heading “BSC, Development Economics” he clarifies that he doesn’t have a BSc:

“Completed the first two years of a degree at SOAS. Shortly after completing the final exams of the second year a business opportunity came up that was too good to miss so I withdrew from the course and moved into the business start-up world.”

Another statement at the Guardian is that he studied money for four years: but this then likely was self-study. There is nothing wrong with self-study, but try to avoid the confusion about it. In academic study the purpose is also to develop an open mind.

The Herman Daly connection

Herman Daly (1938) is also on the board of advisors of Positive Money. The book Modernising Money has a preface by him.  Daly had a BA in economics at Rice 1960 and proceeded directly to a Ph. D. in 1967 under Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen (NGR) (1906-1994). NGR was a mathematician who proceeded with statistics, and, perhaps because of the application of his statistics to economics, could become professor of economics at Vanderbilt: whence Daly’s thesis is counted as “economics” but it need not be economics in reality.

Economist Roefie Hueting (1929) explains that his economic analysis on the environment isn’t understood by Herman Daly, which is a pity since Daly worked at the department for the environment of the World Bank in 1988-1994. Libb Thims suggests that NGR and Daly have a wrong concept of thermodynamics as well: but I have not looked into this. We see a similar kind of confusion with Robert Costanza, who has a background in architecture and environmental system engineering, but who switched to what is called “ecological economics” but which quite surely need not be economics at all, but which may be an application of hoped-for notions of thermodynamics.

Daly solidly affirms the proposals in Mondernising Money, and has no criticism at all, which is the role of a much appreciated advisor:

“Money ranks with fire and the wheel as an invention without which the modern world would be unimaginable. Unfortunately, out-of-control money now injures more people than both out-of-control fires and wheels. Loss of control stems from the privilege enjoyed by the private banking sector of creating money from nothing and lending it at interest in the form of demand deposits. This power derives from the current design of the banking system, and can be corrected by moving to a system where new money can only be created by a public body, working in the public interest. This is simple to state, but difficult to bring about. Andrew Jackson and Ben Dyson do a fine job of explaining the malfunctioning present banking system, and showing the clear institutional reforms necessary for a sound monetary system. The main ideas go back to the leading economic thinkers of 50 to 75 years ago, including Irving Fisher, Frank Knight and Frederick Soddy. This book revives and modernises these ideas, and shows with clarity and in detail why they must be a key part of economic reform today.” (Herman Daly, preface)


We don’t see much science but a circus. We can only hope – for there is no guarantee – that Dutch Parliament distinguishes sense from nonsense.

To Claire Boonstra (1975)
MSc Civil Engineering TU Delft

Dear Ms. Boonstra,
Dear Claire,

You are a concerned mother of three. You don’t have a degree in education, but you want to do something about education, using your experience in technology and marketing. In 2012 you made a speech at TEDxAmsterdamED, saying that you left, and that your new mission was to do something about education.

Claire Boonstra in 2012 at TEDxAmsterdamED (screenshot)

Claire Boonstra in 2012 at TEDxAmsterdamED (screenshot)

You didn’t mean to say that you would go back to university to study education, and get teaching practice and a teachting degree. For example, with your background in civil engineering, you might become a teacher in mathematics in two years, and then write a thesis on math education.

Instead, what you meant is: first you wanted to think about what you wanted to do, and then do this.

This is your manifesto (from 2012 ?). You have been thinking for three years. Now in 2015 you state that you know what you want to do.

“Now, three years later, œ Operation Education is focused on feeding the movement to revolutionize education. We do this by creating frameworks and facilitating networks, connecting the different players, and especially by creating a large public debate on the ‘why’ and ‘what for’ of education. Our ultimate mission is to unleash the infinite potential of humans, and of humanity. A never-to-be-achieved-in-one-lifetime mission which serves as our compass direction.” (Claire’s website)

  • It is a pity that you didn’t do this thinking in a more structured environment. Some of your criticism of CITO tests – see the IGLO question – would be useful in the common discussion about the validity of CITO tests: but then in a systematic manner.
  • You have been thinking in your own way, with a company œ Operation Education – in which the œ stands for infinite potential – talking with a network of people like EU Commissionar Neelie Kroes and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who enjoy speaking about education with people who know less about education but more about technology and marketing.
  • You must be warned about some tendency among persons with an engineering background to see everything as engineering. We should not reduce this to a bias against engineers, since points of views must be judged on their merits. But some warning is fair, like with doctors who see patients everywhere, or lawyers who wonder whether suing you could be won, or people with hammers who see nails everywhere. For example, when we compare your position with the partnership on 21st Century Skills (P21), then we see that chair dr. Lizabeth Fogel has teaching experience, while Charles Fadel is more like you, with a background in engineering and marketing.

Your three years in the desert ended when you discovered Theory U by the Presencing Institute (PI – another mathematics-like symbol), created by MIT organizational engineers Peter Senge and Otto Scharmer:

Theory U, says that the quality of the results that a system creates is a function of the awareness from which the people in that system operate.”

One supposes that Senge & Scharmer allow that a system reduces awareness. Somehow the Dutch system of education may have reduced your awareness about the possibilities to study education before embarking upon “creating frameworks (…) to unleash the infinite potential (…)”. If you had a degree in education then you likely wouldn’t use this funny language.

The Senge-Scharmer story-line is:

“The Presencing Institute grew out of the MIT Center for Organizational Learning, which was founded by Peter Senge and his colleagues together with a group of global companies in the early 1990s. Senge and his organization were part of the same MIT System Dynamics group that had produced the influential Limits to Growth study that had helped spark the worldwide environmental movement in the 1970s.

In his work, Senge kept noticing how well developed the skills of the System Dynamics PhD students were in analyzing the broken systems of our current society. But the practical impact on changing any of these systems was almost zero. Based on that puzzling observation, Senge became interested in the behavioral dimension of change.” (Presencing,com)

I am very sympathetic to the Limits to Growth study, see this weblog text on Roefie Hueting‘s groundbreaking work on environmentally Sustainable National Income (eSNI). However, when people don’t fully buy into the Limits to Growth story, then

  • the conclusion is not quite: to look into the behavioral dimension of change, like Senge and Scharmer did,
  • but it is also a good idea to wonder: what is wrong with the Limits to Growth story ?

Some suggestions of mine:

  • switch from Limits to Growth to Hueting’s analysis on eSNI, see his website.
  • Enhance the system of democracy, see Voting Theory for Democracy.
  • Strenghten the role of science in the preparation of policy, see the Economic Supreme Court.
  • Beware of engineers who want to perfects systems of social control without the dimension of democracy and science.

Thus, dear Claire, you are only 40 and still have three decades in this 21st century before official retirement. Stop chasing fata morganas of your own creation. Stop locking yourself up in your prison of lack of knowledge and experience. Create a solid intellectual and emotional foundation for your future endeavours. Thus:

  • please reconsider your bet on Theory U,
  • respect the experience by teaching professionals,
  • first get your own teaching degree and experience,
  • then join the ranks of those who are working for better education in a knowledgeable manner,
  • and while this is your focus, you may of course speak about your experience in technology and marketing, but without the confusion.

Why don’t you check out this book of mine on education in mathematics, and observe the challenges: Elegance with Substance.

Sincerely yours,

Thomas Colignatus
Econometrician (Groningen 1982) and teacher of mathematics (Leiden 2008)

Listening to Poulopoulos, O Dromos


While Europe is busy with refugee immigrants, I take a leave, since I already discussed this two years ago: Europe’s bloody border. Some people accuse this weblog of not looking at the real issues but these people don’t boycott Holland and thus are in serious need of a reality check.

Instead, my thoughts and warm feelings go out to Adriaan de Groot (1914-2006), because his work has always been relevant to me, and comes out top again. He is five years younger than Pierre van Hiele (1909-2010) and like him also studied mathematics with Gerrit Mannoury (1867-1956). De Groot got a bachelor in mathematics, switched to psychology with an MA in 1941, and got his 1946  PhD in mathematics & physics, with supervisor psychologist Geza Revesz who remarkably worked at that department. This study is: Thought and choice in chess (online). Original Dutch: Het denken van den schaker (online).

NB. Mannoury was early into semiotics, and found that “the meaning of a word is its use” quite early before Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) did. For example, immigrant has a different use than future compatriot. Hopefully one day I can say more on Mannoury.

The spelling checker alerts us to problems in this Abstract by Amsterdam University Press. There is also a distinction between a chess master and the computer game chessmaster. But it is great that the English translation is online.

“What does a chessmaster think when he prepartes [sic] his next move? How are his thoughts organized? Which methods and strategies does he use by solving his problem of choice? To answer these questions, the author did an experimental study in 1938, to which famous chessmasters participated (Alekhine, Max Euwe and Flohr). This book is still usefull [sic] for everybody who studies cognition and artificial intelligence.” (Abstract)

A.D. de Groot (1914-2006) (Wikimedia Commons)

A.D. de Groot (1914-2006) (Wikimedia)

Chess and its levels of competence

I will copy much from the obituary, by Fernand Gobet, ICGA journal 240 (?), 2006, p236-243 (?).

“De Groot’s thesis did not, however, attract the interest of chess players only; it was a harbinger of the cognitive revolution in psychology that would occur in the early sixties.Because of its strong impact on cognitive psychology, and because of the breadth of the study, de Groot’s thesis can safely be considered a classic in the field.” (Gobet p36)

Indeed, Gerald Goldin reminded us of the strong influence of behaviorism in the USA, for us: on testing students – see here. The book by De Groot helped the turn to cognitive psychology.

Fernand Gobet p239-240 summarizes the findings by De Groot (1946) and it has been input for Van Hiele (1957).

“De Groot proposed also that a player’s thinking process may be divided into four main phases: orientation, exploration, investigation, and proof. In the orientation phase, players collect relevant information and try to form a first (tentative) judgment of the position. During the exploration phase, sample variations are analysed, and, typically, the number of critical moves or plans is reduced to two. The two candidate moves are analysed in great detail during the investigation phase, which is characterised by a more in-depth search than during the exploration phase. Players strive to validate their favourite move (or plan). Note that most of the argumentation used by chess players consists of convincing themselves that one of the two variations is better than the other. Finally, the proof phase is used to recapitulate the information obtained in the analysis and to check the correctness of the argumentation. De Groot described also several chess methods used by players to reach their solution. These methods include strategic and tactical plans, ideas, and goals. Note that while they differentiate well between strong and weak players, all these methods are tied to the domain of chess. The higher-level thought and choice methods, which organise the structure of the protocol, did not differ between players of various skills.”

I don’t want to go into chess now. Some meta-comments are relevant:

  • Personally, I found it quite surprising that the Georg Rasch model (on competence in reading by Danish children) was mathematically the same as the Arpad Elo rating for chess players: Item Response Theory. It is included in my book Voting Theory for Democracy.
  • Main idea: When you are not challenged enough then you get bored, when the challenge is larger than your competence then you get stressed, and when challenge and competence match then you get flow.
  • This is also a model for competition between theories or academic papers. Currently editors select the articles of a journal – or manage the selection of those. Alternatively, researchers just put their article online. Subsequently the process of Elo rating starts. The main question is how to define the rules of the game. Facebook does it with “likes”. But this is too coarse.

One of the sickest comments in science is to say about an article: “Get it published in a peer-reviewed journal, and then I will look at it.” It is illogical and perverse, and a frequently abused lame excuse for not looking into criticism. When a scientists looks at the article directly, then this is peer-review on the spot. Not looking at it, is shifting the effort to others. For example, when you contact a scientist to report an inconsistency in his or her thesis: then this scientist should look into it, and the reply should not be: “Get …. it.”

There are also other players who discovered that it pays not to stick to the rules. See my game of chess with Vladimir Putin, and the performance of Garry Kasparov on Dutch TV. Surprisingly, in Gobet’s Obituary on page 241  we find the game of chess of 3000 BC that we discussed yesterday, and in this publication Kasparov apparently succeeded in replacing the Egyptian pieces by Staunton pieces. It still isn’t clear yet who must move. The ancient Egyptian or Putin rule is that there are no moves: just proceed at will.

De Groot Obituary, by Fernand Gobet, p241

De Groot Obituary, by Fernand Gobet 2006, p241

In retirement: Forum theory

From onset to retirement is a great leap, but it shows De Groot’s most important contribution. This is the Forum theory. Gobet summarizes:

“During his retirement, de Groot spent much of his energy on philosophical questions, most of them related to psychology. A first theme is related to the notion of truth in science. The Forum Theory , which he had been developing over thirty years, insists on the idea that science is a communal activity directed towards rational consensus. As there is no absolute truth in science, all that scientists can do is to strive for truth, that is, to strive for theories having the highest possible level of certainty. This criterion is met in the case of statements that are unanimously endorsed by all pertinent scientific experts. Such statements then are scientifically true to the best of our present knowledge. Neither are the rules for the correct way of conducting science unchangeable or indisputable. These, too, are to be discussed, and agreed upon in what de Groot calls the forum of expert opinion. A second important theme in de Groot’s reflections was a conception of unifying psychology, a field that is now split into innumerable schools. His approach to this gigantic task was to strive for agreements on the definitions of basic concepts in scientific psychology. De Groot conceded that the task of bridging methodological and terminological differences between schools will not promise any early success. However, connectibility of terminology and method is a necessary requirement for any mature scientific discipline, he argued. Working on it is a must.” (Fernand Gobet, p238)

The key book is De Groot (1982), Academie en Forum, as far as I know not translated into English. The book is great and has for example these elements:

  • Forum continues where his other book Methodologie (1961) ends (see below). Methodologie already contains the Forum (capitalized) but still ends somewhat depressing: exact results like in mathematics cannot really be gotten. The further development of Forum Theory is a positive idea, and uplifting.
  • It indeed also contains the suggestion to look into Elo-rating of research (-ers).
  • Academia discusses education research, design of structure and curriculum, selection processes for higher education (equal input of time versus equal output of quality), innovation (at that time). Design of new topics for education should be accompanied by description how those are going to be tested.
  • It rejects the triad knowledge, skill and attitude, with the argument that it is rather difficult to operationalise and test attitude; and replaces this with another scheme.
  • It highlights the sectarian character of Holland. Two persons are a church; a third causes a schism.

My book Trias Politica & Centraal Planbureau (1994) page 81 quoted from Academie en Forum p 9. Appendix A below contains that quote and a remarkably fair Google Translation of it. Please observe that one objective of this weblog is to contribute to the unification, by showing how findings are related. The suggestion of an Economic Supreme Court is also based upon a Definition & Reality Methodology that supplements De Groot’s Methodologie, and that is also required to qualify the Van Hiele theory of levels.

A bit on significance 1956

Psychologists Eric-Jan Wagenmakers and others found it useful to translate an article by De Groot (1956) on (statistical) significance. I agree that the translation is helpful. Let me immediately refer also to Ziliak & McCloskey (2006) Cult of Statistical Significance. In addition: large sample sizes may easily create statistically significant differences: but with little relevance for meaningful significance (how you want to use the results).

“Adrianus Dingeman de Groot (1914–2006) was one of the most influential Dutch psychologists. He became famous for his work “Thought and Choice in Chess”, but his main contribution was methodological — De Groot cofounded the Department of Psychological Methods at the University of Amsterdam (together with R. F. van Naerssen), founded one of the leading testing and assessment companies (CITO), and wrote the monograph “Methodology” that centers on the empirical-scientific cycle: observation–induction– deduction–testing–evaluation. Here we translate one of De Groot’s early articles, published in 1956 in the Dutch journal Nederlands Tijdschrift voor de Psychologie en Haar Grensgebieden. This article is more topical now than it was almost 60 years ago. De Groot stresses the difference between exploratory and confirmatory (“hypothesis testing”) research and argues that statistical inference is only sensible for the latter: “One ‘is allowed’ to apply statistical tests in exploratory research, just as long as one realizes that they do not have evidential impact”. De Groot may have also been one of the first psychologists to argue explicitly for preregistration of experiments and the associated plan of statistical analysis. The appendix provides annotations that connect De Groot’s arguments to the current-day debate on transparency and reproducibility in psychological science.” (Abstract by E-J. Wagenmans et al.)

Methodology 1961

De Groot wrote a classic Methodologie, (1961, 1994 online).  The recommendation in Dutch by G.J. Mellenbergh on pages v-vi is well-deserved. Apparently De Groot’s empirical cycle is appreciated by the English speaking wikipedians, but the Dutch version looks deserted. Amazon states that the English translation Methodology (1969) is out of print.

Logic, philosophy of science and methodology were an early interest of mine, see A Logic of Exceptions (1981, 2007, 2011). It also caused the Definition & Reality Methodology used in DRGTPE.

Methodology (the study, not necessarily this book) appears to very relevant – see here – when you want to understand the Van Hiele theory of levels of insight.

Psychologist Ben Wilbrink rejects Van Hiele’s theory, referring to Popper: the theory wouldn’t be falsifiable.

  • Interestingly, Popper’s approach in the philosophy of science is based upon the approach in psychology by Otto Selz (1881-1943).
  • The Dutch wikipedia text states that De Groot was inspired to his thesis on chess by work by Selz.
  • However, see this discussion that explains where Popper’s criterion of falsifiability doesn’t work.
  • A major problem with the rejection by Wilbrink is that he apparently is not interested in mathematics education research: but it is strange to do “psychology” and not look at the relevant field of application.

One reader at Amazon gave it 100% appreciation, with wonderful words like paedagogocal (kids enjoy a go-go approach) and crimonology (monologues like this weblog are a crime), while the expansion to Ayurveda comes as a surprise out of the blue.

“This book is complete, superb and perfect, therefore handy for research and practical work. It has a high abstract level. Exact for all social sciences; psychology, clinical psychology, social psychology, sociology, paedagogocal [sic] and political sciences, journalism, etc. Regarding the human aspects also for biology, medical science; neurology, psychiatry, law, crimonology [sic], general economics, languages and history. A.D. de Groot became a doctor cum laude in Math and Physics in 1946. He had a Fellowship on the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences, Stanford, California, 1959-1960. With this book one can expand too, f.i. like Ayurveda methodology, where cures by placebo effects or self-curings are studied too.” (By JPR Petersen on December 2, 2011 on Amazon)

Gobet summarizes the conundrum of psychology that cannot observe “thinking”. I take two quotes:

“De Groot’s approach to psychology is complex. It is a subtle mixture of “hard” techniques, mathematical and statistical – do not forget that he was a professor of methodology for over 20 years – and of “softer” approaches, such as interpretative analysis of verbal protocols. In this case, the psychologist tries to understand the subjects’ behaviour at several levels, some of which are not accessible through sheer quantitative techniques. His work on chess, starting with his thesis, offers a good example of the concomitant application of these two approaches.” (p 241)

“History may prove de Groot correct after all. In the last two decades, there has been a renewal of interest in more qualitative ways of analysing chess data. There has been a revival of interest, too, in “higher descriptions” and of “global descriptions” of positions, besides the more detailed descriptions at the chunk level. Obviously, this is the level you get when you ask experts to speak about their field of expertise. And this is the level of analysis de Groot emphasised in Thought and Choice in Chess.” (p242)

De Groot 1961 overlooked the 1957 Van Hiele levels of insight

Van Hiele’s thesis’s list of literature mentions De Groot (1946) on chess and De Groot (1955) Cognitive psychology and education in geometry in the introduction to geometry. (This is my translation of the title.) Apparently the Dutch term “aanvankelijk meetkunde-onderwijs” means geometry in junior highschool. (Van Hiele also refers to Emma Castelnuovo Intuitive Geometry. Lehrer Rundbrief VII, 11. See my earlier question on history of math (ed).) (This link generates a different person, teacher A.J. de Groot.)

Given that Van Hiele’s 1957 thesis concerns levels of insight, De Groot could have taken an interest, also with the common background in math and Mannoury. Indeed, Van Hiele’s thesis is in the literature of Methodologie (my copy 1961), and it is mentioned on page 184.

The great disappointment is that:

  • De Groot doesn’t include the subtitle in the reference. The full title of Van Hiele’s 1957 thesis is, my translation: “The Issue of Insight, Demonstrated with the Insight of School Children in the Subject Matter of Geometry.”  Thus he indicates that geometry is only used for an existence proof for the levels of insight. Observe the pun: geometry itself uses demonstration as a method.
  • De Groot puts Van Hiele into the box of “geometry only”, instead of seeing that Van Hiele presented a general theory of insight, cognition, epistemology.
  • We can only suppose that De Groot was so busy with Methodologie that he wasn’t really interested in new insights coming from mathematics education.

Never teach generalities by giving only one example. Give strings of examples, so that people see the general portent. Don’t give people any opportunity to put you into the box of a single example.

This is the relevant section of De Groot (1964), Ch 6, p 184. Let me cheat in translation for a first time now, and edit the output of Google Translate. The originals are in Appendix B.

“But what are ‘educational objectives that are considered important ‘ in the case of plane geometry in the first grade of junior highschool ?

One can have rather different views on the aim of teaching geometry. One can even argue whether it is a necessary part, for example of the advanced (HBS) program. As is known it has indeed been proposed to replace plane geometry entirely by something else, for example symbolic logic or set theory. One can see the aim as limited, strictly tied to the program itself: learn to solve certain types of problems. Or one can see the aim as wide in scope, for example: learn to think, analyse a problem, learn to apply systematic methods of analysis and general methods of solution, also for other objectives (cf. e.g. BOS 1955). Or one can put emphasis on the spatial aspect: geometry as a means to develop a structured ‘spatial insight’ (e.g. VAN HIELE 1957). Or, something else again, as a way for a first encounter with a scientific, partly formalised deductive system. There are many sagacious and profound reflections on this – and few conclusions in agreement.”

St Nicholas 1965

Our hero De Groot was no saint but a mere human, and one day became ill. However, he turned his illness into a wonderful opportunity to research the issue of St Nicholas. De Groot (1965), Saint Nicholas: A Psychoanalytic Study of History and Myth, discusses:

“In this book, the fascinating St. Nicholas story is examined from a specific angle. Intrigued by the abundance of fertility and birth symbolism in folklore and legends, the author has tried his hand at a “psychoanalysis of St. Nicholas.” To this end, present-day (Dutch) folklore is traced back to medieval customs and legends and, through a partly historical, partly psychoanalytic interpretation, to pre-Christian beliefs, to Germanic and Greek gods– and in particular to the birthplace of the legend, the city of Myra. The result is an absorbing and often surprising perspective of sixteen centuries of Christian culture.” (cover text)

This is essentially the same analysis as the later one by Tony van Renterghem (1995), When Santa was a Shaman: Ancient Origins of Santa Claus & the Christmas Tree. De Groot has a tougher task as a psychologist, also thinking about semiotics, while Van Renterghem has more liberty to wonder at questions and cultural relevance.

My own proposal since 1992 is to get rid of the religious burden and male chauvism here, and speak about Kidda Claus or Claudia, with helper Jester Peter or Petra. In Dutch: Kinderklaas & Narren-Piet.

Perhaps I am overdoing this. “Santa Claus” is already different from “St. Nicholas”. The fellow in his reindeer sled is not the common religious saint. The situation in the USA may already be neutralised, except for the male chauvism.

Santa in Holland has a helper: not an elf, but a character with the traditional name of Black Peter and the appearance of the black-up Morris Dancers.

  • Protests about racism on one side and pleas to keep the tradition on the other side are at boiling point.
  • Last year the mayor of Gouda arrested 90 people in the mayhem, see my report. Of these 90, 89 have been acquitted so this indeed smells of an abuse of power, and the remaining 1 likely is a case to cover up police brutality.
  • My proposal is to use the name Jester Peter or Petra, and allow all kinds of colours (of which black might be one, but only as one of many). Keep most of the tradition but don’t use a name that plays into racist misunderstandings.

Holland has close connections with Russia, – by chess, – by the Romanovs, – by MH17, – by the current Russian boycott of Dutch agricultural products, – by the Crimea Scythes gold that was on exhibition in Amsterdam when Russia took the Crimea: with now the tantalising question whether it should be “returned” to the Ukraine or Russia. And thus also with St Nicholas, the patron saint of Great Russia. We can only hope that the boycott of Holland is successful for the right reason.

Russian icon (Wikimedia commons)

Russian icon (Wikimedia commons)


In Holland, mathematician Hans Freudenthal (1905-1990) rejected empirical methods, like statistics, because he was trained to be an abstract thinking mathematician and he knew little about empirical science anyway. He created “realistic mathematics education” (RME) based upon his own insights on what would work. He also succeeded in establishing this as the norm in Dutch math education. Well, there are plenty of reasons to be wary of abuse of statistics, but the only answer is to become a better statistician. This however was lost to the mathematics education research (MER) community.

Given the void thus created by the absence of MER, psychologists stepped in. At the academia they for example study number sense: in kindergarten and the first years of elementary school, the importance of fingers. As applied science, producing tests as paid-for products, there is CITO. At CITO, (psychological) testers design, process and analyse annual tests of pupils leaving elementary school, for language, math and other subjects, and those support advice on the subsequent school system. It is a huge achievement of De Groot to help set up such a system, that creates some standards, and that doesn’t leave kids in the jungle of well-meaning but perhaps incompetent teachers.

CITO must be praised for this too, since it is by this kind of testing that the failure of RME came to full attention. Teachers at higher and middle education were complaining that students could no longer count, but CITO turned the anecdotal complaints into facts – also eliminating the sneer to similar complaints already in antiquity.

It is however curious that:

  • These psychologists rely on their own understanding of arithmetic, and they don’t feel as if they should study MER.
  • The psychologists apparently took RME as the authorative standard of MER, and devised tests to measure RME, contrary to Freudenthal’s view.
  • Thus CITO created tests with “context sums”, in which text is used to describe situations, such that pupils must detect the underlying mathematical model, and then solve the issue and calculate some answer. See our discussion on Gerald Goldin for similar test issues in the USA.
  • CITO allows an uncontrolled experiment on children, while there would be scientific and medical rules for chimps and rabbits. There are now two competing methods in Dutch primary education: RME and Van de Craats’s “traditional method”. A scientific experiment would be stopped once it is clear what method is best, after which the best method is given to all guinea pigs. CITO just allows the mess. See my letter to CITO, in Dutch, October 18, that didn’t get a decent reply yet. CITO refers to the Inspection of Education, as the formal authority for testing elementary school kids. This is a false referral. The Inspection isn’t a scientific institute. CITO does the actual testing and claims to maintain standards of science. My question to CITO is one of scientific ethics, and they simply dodge it. In psychology it might be called cognitive dissonance.
Problematic psychological research on mathematics education

I am no psychologist, and only give my response from teaching practice and MER and econometric technique (including Jöreskog’s LISREL and latent variables).

Overall: Van Hiele opposed concrete versus abstract while Freudenthal misrepresented this as model versus reality (applied mathematics).

To test mathematical competence according to Van Hiele, you would have to test at the various levels of insight. Students would have to know mathematics before they can apply it – by level – and it is not proper to equalise understanding to applied mathematics. Mathematical competence is not a collection of fields of application. Testing Freudenthal is easier, because you can resort to situations of applied mathematics. It reduces to behaviorism again. When the chimps push the right buttons on the calculators then by definition they have mastered some skill.

These so-called cognitive psychologists have reduced to behaviorism again.

Let me mention seven problematic experiences, and correct me if I am wrong, because I am no psychologist, and they do a lot of testing about issues that I am not aware of:

  1. Research on number sense can be invalid because of inadequate handling of pronunciation of numbers, see here. It is very curious that there is no movement amongst psychologists to reform collective pronunciation of numbers. (Norway had a reform in 1950, the exception.) See my booklet A child wants nice and no mean numbers (2015) (online).
  2. Stellan Ohlsson inverts the process of learning, saying that it would go “from abstract to concrete”, but he means to say “from vague to precise”, see here. How is it possible to confuse these terms ? It is not just Ohlsson as a single person, because he is member of a community that would have discussed these issues.
  3. Psychologist Ben Wilbrink shows inadequate grasp of methodology, and doesn’t want to look into this, see here.
  4. CITO tests mixed fractions in the traditional manner, but those are didactically cumbersome. If psychologists – and especially mathematically capable psychometricians, with the journal Psychometrika founded in 1935 –  had been aware of MER then they could have protested early on that this isn’t mathematics but “mathematics” – see the discussion on the torture by Jan van de Craats, see here. (Let me refer to Van Hiele (1973) with a proposal to abolish fractions – here.)
  5. CITO tends use outcomes of sums as the indicator of achievement, and neglects the methods how the outcomes have been achieved, apart from legal rules that allow or don’t allow a calculator. (Generally, when there is a descriptive text, then it is called a “context sum” and then calculators are allowed.). Thus, kids who use traditional algorithms (e.g. long division) and kids who use RME algorithms (e.g. partial quotients), would be judged equally competent when they have the same outcomes. This is not only the equalisation of “good method but small error” and “hopelessly lost”. Such is a common feature of computerised testing and probably cannot be avoided (except by creative chunking): except by concluding that some tests shouldn’t be computerised. The true problem is that you require the traditional algorithms in arithmetic to do algebra at a later stage. Thus RME might seem to generate “competence in simplifying 165 / 7” but in fact it maims your brain for higher schooling. Hickendorff (2011), a cum laude thesis using CITO data, falls into that trap. This thesis played and plays an important role in the discussion in Holland, with its conclusion as if the traditional and RME methods would be equally effective at the end of elementary school. Such a conclusion only derives from a disregard of MER. Hickendorff explicitly states not to be competent in that field. In itself it is a sign of integrity to emphasize what you are not competent in. This clarity is much appreciated and helps us to identify the problem. For, there still is a problem. Apparently she worked in an environment that was cocooned from the notion that a researcher must develop expertise in the area of application.
  6. I presume that there are psychologists who supported RME by Freudenthal, that wasn’t empirically tested – but I am new to this world and cannot give references.
  7. I presume that there are psychologists who supported traditional mathematics education, like from Hung-Hsi Wu in the USA, that doesn’t seem to be tested empirically either. But I am new to this world and cannot quite give references. For example, John Hattie has been educated on education, and I don’t know how psychology features in that, in his part of the world.
I wouldn't want to be caught before a blackboard like that (Screenshot UChicago)

I wouldn’t want to be caught in front of a blackboard like that (Screenshot UChicago)


Loose ends we haven’t looked into:

  • Wouldn’t Van Hiele have been interested in De Groot’s Methodologie, and have contacted him on that ?
  • What about the role of Hans Freudenthal (1905-1990) in all of this ?
  • Who are the psychologists supporting Jan van de Craats anno 2015 ?
  • When will this misery ever end ?


Appendix A: De Groot Academie en Forum (1982:9) quoted by Trias Politica & Centraal Planbureau (1994:81)


Google Translate actually does a reasonably fair job, for a computer programme.

“(…) is a democratic polity necessary, but not sufficient. For a fruitful development of the politically sensitive social sciences in particular is also needed: a government that understands well its main task of science policy; namely the duty, even in those subject areas, the tradition of critical inquiry, rational discussion and strive for objective judgment – in short – to encourage support, protect the culture Forum. Perhaps a modern democracy was not a triad but with tetras [tessera? / TC] politician must be equipped with the fourth independent power of science. One might think of a corresponding Supreme Court, which is common in severe cases, the government can condemn political prostitution of research, for abuse of expressions such as ‘scientifically proven that …’ and scientifically irresponsible applications. It seems in principle a good idea, at least – in the current situation – a beautiful pipe dream. Realized or not, the idea is dictated by a certainly legitimate concerns about the socio-political climate is such that the last decades has developed in the Netherlands. It seems that the public respect for rationality and integrity, for (better) understanding, and (better) intellectual performance in general, there is no greater on has become. The common aim leveling work a short-sighted anti-intellectualism in the hand; the continued politicization of scientific research standard and rationally decidable problems, not only undermines the (gamma) science but also adversely affects the quality of our entire culture.” (Google Translate)

Dutch original:

“(…) is een democratisch staatsbestel nodig, maar niet voldoende. Voor een vruchtbare ontwikkeling van de politiek zo gevoelige gamma-wetenschappen in het bijzonder is tevens nodig: een overheid die haar voornaamste taak van wetenschapsbeleid goed verstaat; namelijk de taak om, ook op die wetenschapsgebieden, de traditie van kritisch onderzoek, rationele discussie en streven naar objectieve oordeelsvorming – kortom: de Forum-cultuur – te steunen, te bevorderen, te beschermen. Misschien zou een moderne democratie niet met een trias maar met een tetras [tessera ? / TC] politica toegerust moeten worden, met als vierde onafhankelijke macht die van de wetenschap. Men zou kunnen denken aan een bijbehorende Hoge Raad, die in voorkomende ernstige gevallen de overheid kan veroordelen voor politieke prostitutie van onderzoek, voor misbruik van uitdrukkingen als ‘wetenschappelijk is aangetoond dat …’ en voor wetenschappelijk onverantwoorde toepassingen. Het lijkt in principe een goed idee, althans – in de huidige situatie – een mooi luchtkasteel. Realiseerbaar of niet, de gedachte wordt ingegeven door een wel degelijk gegronde bezorgdheid over het sociaal-politieke klimaat zoals zich dat de laatste decaden in Nederland heeft ontwikkeld. Het ziet ernaar uit dat het publieke respect voor rationaliteit en integriteit, voor (beter) inzicht, en voor (betere) intellectuele prestaties in het algemeen, er niet groter op is geworden. Het gangbare nivelleringsstreven werkt een kortzichtig anti-intellectualisme in de hand; de voortdurende politisering ook van wetenschappelijk onderzoekbare en rationeel beslisbare problemen, ondermijnt niet alleen de (gamma-) wetenschap maar schaadt ook de kwaliteit van onze hele cultuur.”  (A.D. de Groot, “Academie en Forum”, Boom, 1982, p9)

Appendix B: De Groot (1961) on Van Hiele (1957)

De Groot (1961, 1964, Ch 6 paragraph 2.2, page 184) (Source DBNL):

Google Translate:

“But what are” considered important educational objectives’ in the case of plane geometry in first class?

One can aim of geometry teaching in general look very different. One can even argue about whether it is a necessary part, for example of the HBS program; as is known has been proposed to replace the plane geometry entirely by something else, such as symbolic logic and set theory. One can see the target limited, strictly tied to the program itself: certain types learn to solve problems; or one can see the large, for example, learn to think, analyze a problem, systematic thinking methods and general solution methods learn to apply also for other purposes (cf. eg forest in 1955.). Or one can focus on the spatial aspect geometry as a means to develop a structured ‘spatial awareness’ (eg from hiele 1957); or different, as a means of an introduction to a science, partly formalized deductive system. There are about many sagacious and profound reflections – and few corresponding conclusions.”

Dutch original:

“Maar wat zijn de ‘belangrijk geachte onderwijs-doelstellingen’ in het geval van de vlakke meetkunde in de eerste klasse?

Men kan het doel van meetkunde-onderwijs in het algemeen zeer verschillend zien. Men kan zelfs twisten over de vraag of het een noodzakelijk onderdeel is, bijvoorbeeld van het H.B.S.-programma; zoals bekend is wel voorgesteld de vlakke meetkunde geheel te vervangen door iets anders, bijvoorbeeld symbolische logica of verzamelingsleer. Men kan het doel beperkt zien, strikt gebonden aan het programma zelf: bepaalde typen vraagstukken leren oplossen; of men kan het ruim zien, bijvoorbeeld: leren denken, een probleem analyseren, systematisch denkmethoden en algemene oplossingsmethoden leren toepassen, òòk voor andere doeleinden (vgl. b.v. bos 1955). Of men kan het accent leggen op het ruimtelijke aspect: meetkunde als middel tot ontwikkeling van een gestructureerd ‘ruimtelijk inzicht’ (b.v. van hiele 1957); of, weer anders, als middel tot een eerste kennismaking met een wetenschappelijk, gedeeltelijk geformaliseerd deductief systeem. Er bestaan hierover veel schrandere en diepe beschouwingen – en maar weinig overeenstemmende conclusies.”

There is Good news and there is Bad news. The Good news is that while Bashar al-Assad flew in secrecy to Moscow to meet with Putin – of which photo’s were released when he was safe at home again – that also his enemy IS leader and self-acclaimed “Caliph Ibrahim” flew in secrecy to Moscow to see Putin – though no photo’s were released. When asked, Putin will invoke plausible deniability.

The President of the Russian Federation will also show his intense irritation about questions on this – a dead give-away. I happened to be present at the occasion because of my monthly chat with him, so let me help him by reporting on the main details.

The Bad news is that self-acclaimed “Caliph Ibrahim” brought along an ancient game of chess as a present for Putin, and then destroyed it before his eyes, throwing it to shambles and beheading the pieces.

Vlad: “That was a gift ! You were going to give it to me ! You completely ruined it !”

sa”CI”: “Let this be a lesson for you !”

Vlad: “That was an ancient game of chess ! A priceless artifact !”

sa”CI”: “Yes, indeed. We found it when we ransacked the Mosul Museum. It belonged to Egyptian Pharao Ramses I when he fought the war at Armageddon around in 3000 BC. It was his gift for his ally from Babylon, Nebukadnezar the Terrible.”

Vlad: “And you barbarian just smashed this ?! I must ask Garry Kasparov to glue those heads on again. He can be smart, you know ? He won’t glue a pawn’s head onto a horse. Though these Egyptian pieces look funny.”

sa”CI”: “That isn’t a horse but a crocodile. And what you call a pawn is a scorpion.”

Queen Nefertari at the board (Source: wikimedia commons)

Queen Nefertari at the board (Source: wikimedia commons)

Vlad: “Well, in that case I am happy that you cut those heads off. Was that your lesson for me ?”

sa”CI”: “Not really. See those pieces that look like penises ? We cannot tolerate pornography.”

Vlad: “And now I am unhappy again. You Cut Those Off.”

The strong man of Russia shuddered.

sa”CI”: “I said that Ramses gave it as a present to his ally Nebukadnezar the Terrible. You must know the full story. They fought together against Alexander the Great and his Hittites, and when they had won the war, then Ramses put Nebukadnezar in a cellar, and gave him this game of chess, so that he and Alexander the Great could pass the time by trying to take each other’s penises.”

Vlad – flushing: “Ah. Oh. So. Ah. Yes. You have got me completely freaked now, I must admit. Am I really getting grateful that you destroyed that … priceless artifact ?”

sa”CI”: “There is no need to thank me. I enjoyed doing it. I only brought it along to show something about the Middle East. We have been at each other’s throats since the beginning of civilisation. Actually, civilisation began because we have been at each other’s throats. Don’t think that you can win. Don’t think that you can invent any new power ploy that we haven’t practiced to perfection for millennia already. Just give us weapons. Then I will give you my advice.”

Courtesy of

Courtesy of

Post scriptum

Below is the ancient chess game between Nebukadnezar the Terrible and Alexander the Great from around 3000 BC, restored by Garry Kasparov. The crocodiles were too much damaged and have been replaced by Staunton horses. On insistence by Putin the penises have been replaced by the sun symbol, now the king. Because of his mortal fear of scorpions, Kasparov replaced those by penises again, but Putin selected the Staunton pawns again. The sitting figure is the queen, scarabs are rooks, and three feathers are the bishop. It has been lost in history who took what side and whose turn it was, and why they didn’t finish the game. President Putin’s main goal now is to get peace in the Middle East so that he can start digging to find out.

Ancient game of chess, restored

Ancient game of chess, restored

Listening to Xarchakos Koritsia ston Hlio


Mathematics teachers can teach you about x to the power of x and how to find its derivative. They tend to be unaware of the power void in the organogram in mathematics education, relating to their own responsibility on how they teach you. Hm. Say again ?

Dutch Parliament distinguishes between the What and How in education:

  • Parliament decides What is taught
  • Teachers decide How they do this.

This principle was established by the Dijsselbloem commission in 2008. Jeroen made his career by observing that too much had gone wrong in the past by former Parliaments not respecting the responsibilities of mere teachers. See my earlier report in 2013 on Dijsselbloem on money and math.

His excellency Jeroen Dijsselbloem, minister of Finance of Holland, and president of the EurogroupHis excellency Jeroen Dijsselbloem, minister of Finance of Holland,
and president of the Eurogroup (source: wikimedia)

This division of labour between Parliament and teachers sounds fine, also when Parliament decides that pupils and students should be educated on mathematics, except … when math teachers don’t teach mathematics but teach so-called “mathematics”.

To avoid over-quotation, I will write math teachers instead of “math” teachers.

Defunct teachers in a power void

When teachers are defunct then Parliament needs to be able to observe that it doesn’t get what it wants. But can it do so, when it wants to remain at some distance ? Will it wait till Hell freezes over ?

What happens when there is a power void in the world of How, with no way to settle issues except a dirty math war ?

  • Mathematician Hans Freudenthal and his minions (I did enjoy watching this movie “Minions” with my youngest son (a requirement)) have been pushing “realistic mathematics education” (RME). This has been wreaking havoc in education – and in Dutch society as a whole, in so far as it depends upon competence in math (but it may also be taken over by China).
  • Mathematician Jan van de Craats has been pushing for traditional math education. But Van de Craats has no training as a math teacher and is creating his own conundrums in mathematics education.
  • Also, RME has been exported to the USA, and now the OECD is transporting it back to Holland under the guise of “21st Century Skills”. Van de Craats may not have expected this boomerang, and may now be poised to export his own delusions to the world.

To resolve the power void on the How, my suggestion from 2008 is to have a Simon Stevin Institute (SSI), that can implement a proper mathematics curriculum and train and advise teachers on didactics. A major role in SSI is for teachers with a training on empirical methods.

The distinction between mathematics and so-called “mathematics” can be indicated by these two tables.

What & How and math & "math"

What (math or “math”) & How

Neoclassics & Classics and math & "math"

Math (neoclassic or classic) versus “math” (old or new)

Legend for the tables
  • Freudenthal was a mathematician who assumed the role of math educator for which he hadn’t been trained. He stole ideas from teacher Pierre van Hiele. See here.
  • RME textbooks tend to avoid mixed fractions, discovered Liesbeth van der Plas. If tests give you a B instead of an A then this still is above average, so don’t complain that you haven’t been taught everything.
  • Jan van de Craats is a mathematician who opposes the chaos that RME is wreaking. He has no training on education either, and is creating his own chaos. He doesn’t defend Van Hiele against Freudenthal’s fraud, likely because he doesn’t understand what that didactic issue is about. See the breach of integrity of science and the weblog entries on van Hiele and on fractions.
  • Classical math is 2 + ½ while it is confusing to write  2½  (two-times-a-half as in 2√2).
  • Pierre van Hiele suggested that fractions could be abolished, and instead he suggested using the power notation which students have to learn anyway.
  • My own suggestion is to use H = -1 so that the use of -1 can be avoided. Pupils who are still learning arithmetic and who see -1 might think that they must subtract something. Instead they learn the rule that x x^H = 1 provided that x ≠ 0. Later when powers and roots are introduced then they can see the value for H (eta).
  • See the Appendix below for the abolition of fractions by means of H. This supplements our earlier discussion.
Long division

A key role in the debate about RME is for long division. Charles Fadel, who has no degree in math education but a bachelor in electronics and an MBA in international marketing, advises the OECD on “21st Century Skills”, and wonders, see his weblog, whether kids must learn long division. My response as a teacher is that if you want kids to learn arithmetic then they must also master long division. I hope that Fadel supports the notion of a Simon Stevin Institute, which provides the environment to properly discuss his ideas, and that he stops using his elbows in an environment with a power void. Stop taking advantage of an old lady who cannot defend herself.

Traditional mathematicians insist that kids learn safe and sure algorithms, and that practice makes perfect. RME suggests that kids need to understand what they do, and that it doesn’t matter how they reach the answer as long as it is good. RME forgets that proper arithmetic algorithms also prepare for later algebra, so that it really matters how you arrive at an answer. Apparently long division got abolished as “mechanical”, and replaced by a different method, called “partial quotients“. This method is also mechanical but deviously not called so since it allows more room for time-consuming random-guessing.

My position is the neoclassical one. Something is to be said for arguments on both traditional and RME sides. There is little use in having this debate, when there is no Simon Stevin Institute that provides a level playing field for this discussion. (Find another hero (-in) for your own country.)

Organogram with the void

The key contribution of this weblog entry is this organogram of mathematics education in Holland. It shows a proper power structure for Parliament and its What. It also shows the void for the How. It is a jungle out there, with all kinds of commissions, and two clear wrongs: (a) mathematicians are meddling, because they regard math ed as their subject, which it isn’t (see also Norma Presmeg’s diagram here), (b) Parliament (deviously or desperately ?) tries to gain control over the How anyway, e.g. by the Inspection. In my analysis, the SSI must control the Inspection, instead of the current inversion.

Organisational Chart for mathematics education in Holland

Organisational Chart for mathematics education in Holland

Legend of the Chart:

  • There is a clear distinction between mathematicians and teachers of mathematics.
  • There is power base for What but a power void for How.
  • Mathematicians create noise on both What (2½) and How (RME, traditional).
  • Parliament is isolated from How by a layer of bureaucracy, but this requires quality public management, which is rather risky and not quite realistic.
  • Minister and Parliament have a tricky influence on How by means of the Inspection. In the past the Inspection imposed RME while teachers protested ! This is a wrong allocation of power. The Inspection must be under control of teachers.
  • The Simon Stevin Institute would redress this jungle and make for proper governance with shorter connections. The council of SSI would have teachers, parents, entrepreneurs, students, and also some mathematicians. See the book “Elegance with Substance” on your national equivalent.
  • NB. The meaning of the arrows is ambiguous. The meanings rather depend upon the boxes the arrows are between. The arrows from Bodies and Publishers to nowhere replace a network to other boxes. While the diagram focuses on math professionals, there are of course also pedagogues, psychologists, and other.
Nota Bene

NB 1. For Dutch readers, there is this memo. Observe that Jan van de Craats has not been supporting this 2008 proposal for a Simon Stevin Institute, but running his own sect.

NB 2. A key role is for Member of Parliament Paul van Meenen, math teacher, and member of opposition party D66. This party of “Democrats” (as they call themselves) has been founded in 1966 with the objective of having direct elections of prime minister and mayors, with a system of district voting, while also referenda were included in their “crown jewels”. However, these methods are not democratic but rather anti-democratic. The “scientific bureau” of D66 neglects and suppresses this critique. D66-founder Hans van Mierlo was rather a demagogue who was in love with the USA of John F. Kennedy and who disliked the Dutch polder methods. Math teacher Paul van Meenen should be able to show his D66 in mathematical manner that D66 can better abolish itself, since those “crown jewels” are not what D66 says they are. D66 lies to the electorate. See Voting Theory for Democracy and my political pamphlet calling for the abolition of D66 (it may be politics when you want to see respect for science). See also the relation of D66 to LibDem in the UK 2015 General Elections.

Appendix: Mathematical abolition of fractions (old notation)

Consider the crooked so-called “mathematical” division of mixed fractions: 2½ / 3⅓ .

Van der Plas (2008) reports that this operation hardly occurs in “realistic mathematics” textbooks. Traditional mathematicians like Van de Craats et al. and Hung-Hsi Wu from the USA want to see a lot of practice on this again. For students the notation however is confusing, for in handwriting it is easy to get 2 ½ / 3 ⅓ = 1 / 3 ⅓ = 1 / 9.

The mathematical meaning of the inverse x^H is that: x x^H = 1 (for x ≠ 0).

On the calculator we find a numerical approximation of x^H by: (x)^(-1).

A relation for exponents is: x = (x^H)^H.

Above expression becomes in neoclassical mathematics: (2 + 2^H) (3 + 3^H) ^ H

This is a new notation. Who is used to it may take longer strides. For now, we take small steps. A classical operation may be at least as long. Properties of H (“eta”) are stated in the bookA child wants nice and no mean numbers (2015) with some observations that might be useful for elementary school (I have no degree on that area).

Eventually, students must learn to handle exponents. The following might seem complex but eventually it will be faster and more insightful. Obviously, this is only an expectation, and it must be checked with pupils whether this expectation is corroborated. It are the pupils who determine what works. I can only hope that there will be a SSI such that this testing can be done without the mud of the current dirty math war in Holland (supported by Freudenthal Institute in Utrecht and Jan van de Craats at UvA).

Operations by steps are:


For comparison: the crooked manner of traditional so-called “mathematics”, in which the notation determines what must be done, and in which you don’t merely denote what you are doing.



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