There is a math war between on the one side “realistic mathematics education” (RME) also known (for the present purposes) as “reform” and on the other side “traditional mathematics education” (TME). I take a third position: decent science (DS).

In Holland this math war is particularly dirty. The scientific approach is maltreated by adherents of both RME and TME. In Holland, RME is given by the Freudenthal Head in the Clouds Realistic Mathematics Institute, and such a TME adherent is Jan van de Craats (UvA) with his SGR foundation. The following gives a graphical display of the various positions, to clarify how people get lost when they replace science by ideology.

While we use the label ME this actually also includes ME research. My position of decent science may also be called “neoclassical mathematics education” (NME). The first step is to observe that both RME and TME actually don’t do mathematics but create so-called “mathematics”. When you repair this, then you get “classical mathematics education” (CME). This CME however is not very didactical. The next step is to re-engineer CME into a form that is didactically acceptable, which gives NME.

The earlier weblog article on the power void in mathematics education puts RME, TME, CME and NME into a table. The standard example is 2½ (RME, TME), 2 + ½ (CME) and 2 + 2^H for mathematical constant H = -1 (NME).

Dispute between RME and TME

In the 1950s teachers concentrated on teaching, and it were academics who trained the teachers who developed the RME ideas how things could be “improved”. It was only when RME was imposed on education, and education started failing, that TME came up as a defence. An example is the defence by the New York City HOLD group.

  • In the 1950s mathematics education research and training became more and more institutionalised at the universities. These academics were oriented on “theory”. That is, they created texts that claimed to be theory. But they looked less at practice and they hardly collected data. A scientific theory must be developed w.r.t. data, and thus RME cannot be seen as a scientific theory, and only counts as ideology. This conclusion may sound a bit harsh, but check out the English Summary on p10-16 of the 2009 KNAW report (pdf) on the empirical base in research on education in arithmetic in Holland. My problem with the report is that it likely neglects the relation of arithmetic to algebra (see here too), so that it downplays the importance of TME over RME. Obviously, the report also neglects my 2008 paper (see here in Dutch). PM. One can imagine RME as a philosophy of education, but philosophy also looks at different views.
  • This also explains that RME has a lot of texts and that this situation suggests a consistent body of claims, while TME consists more of simple rules and lines of defence. It seems as if TME is less developed while RME might appear to be attractive since it has such a body of texts and authors referring to each other. But we are comparing apples and oranges. Ideology does not quite compare with empirical science.

For Holland, there is also the Freudenthal fraud and disaster. The International Mathematical Union (IMU) has a committee on education (ICMI). They have created a “Freudenthal Medal” as a reward for mathematics education researchers. The 2015 medal has been awarded to Jill Adler. I wrote to IMU / ICMI in 2014, but they have not responded till now, and we may fear that they did not inform professor Adler about the discovery of the fraud.

To be sure:

  • Mathematics teacher Pierre van Hiele (1909-2010) observed in practice that students showed levels in insight. He presented in his 1957 thesis a general theory of levels of insight, with suggestions how education can help students to move from one level to the next one. He used geometry to demonstrate this, but said explicitly that the theory applied also to other areas of knowledge. His work can best be seen as NME. He investigated the use of 2 + 2^(-1). My suggestion to use H = -1 is an improvement on this. Using -1 directly suggests to students that they must do some calculation, which is distractive. Instead, 2^H indicates the inverse value of 2, which is precisely what is needed, with the rule that 2 2^H = 1.
  • Mathematician Hans Freudenthal (1905-1990) was the thesis supervisor of Van Hiele. Freudenthal lectured mathematics at university and  had hardly training and practical experience as math teacher for other levels of education. Apparently he put in hours in looking at such practices, but we can diagnose that he remained an abstract thinking mathematician and that he did not develop into an empirical scientist. His wife supported the Jena-plan schools, and may have influenced him in preferring understanding above drilling. Unfortunately, he stole ideas by Van Hiele, and distorted them, and abused his position as a professor to take the limelight. Freudenthal presented his RME and blocked the development of NME.
First graph: Cause and effect

We can make a first graph on the difference between RME and TME w.r.t. cause and effect in the relation between insight and skill. These notions meet with difficult questions on measurement, on which RME and TME may not agree. When insight is defined as “problem solving skills” then we must distinguish between different kinds of skills. The following remains a sketch that is targeted at understanding the difference in reasoning.

  • RME holds that students should understand issues much deeper than TME are willing to accept before they should be trained. Potentially this order might be reversed, like in behaviourism with Pavlov reactions, but doing so would not be educational (in the long run). Thus in the RME View, insight (grasp) drives the subsequent skill. RME will not drill on the tables of multiplication and on long division. By working with insight on sums, the required skills will sink in over time. There might be a trade-off, with little grasp causing little skill and a high grasp on theory with little practical skill (the distracted professor). It is not required to target for the highest level of skill.
  • The TME response is that this is too simple. It is obvious that exercises better be preceded by an introduction. But the introduction would be shorter than with RME. Once you understand what addition and multiplication are, you still have to exercise on tables of addition and tables of multiplication, and learn to know those by heart for the numbers 1-10. You must master long division for later algebra (e.g. divide x^2 -1 by x – 1). There are different levels of insight. At some point the development of skill can help to arrive at more insight. At some point training (like training to the test) can reduce understanding, but this doesn’t devalue the other notions. TME will have less assumptions about the form of the graph, and for simplicity I use a similar form.
Traditional versus reform views

Traditional versus reform views

Second graph: Combined

When we assume that the notions of insight and skill are measured in the same manner for both RME and TME positions, then we can combine above graphs. We indicate the tops of curves by labels T (TME) and R (RME) only to help distinguish them. Potentially, the curves can still be everywhere, either be distinct (left graph, T on the left of R) or overlap (right graph, T on the right of R). Overall, RME claims that it can be superior in insight than TME, with the graph extending to the right of T.

Views combined in the same space

Views combined in the same space

Third graph: Decision space

When the notions of insight and skill are measured in ways that we can agree upon scientifically, then it may also be that these processes like “too much training on skill destroys insight” or “too much time to develop insight destroys skill” take a special form. An economist is reminded of the Production Possibility Curve (PPC).

Production factors like time and energy create both insight and skill, with a concave trade-off given by the PPC through the points A and B. In the philosophy of RME there is A = T and B = R, so that the TME might have perhaps more skill but at the cost of insight. TME holds that the RME claim is false: RME might succeed in doing more context sums A = R (drilling that isn’t called drilling) but with little mathematical insight B = T.

PPCOf relevance is point C. This point is given by neoclassical mathematics education (NME). This point gives more skill and insight than both A and B. Whether RME or TME is at A or B does not really matter, because C is always better. This position of NME has not been proved empirically yet, but follows logically from its removal of crummy “mathematics”.


The argument of this weblog text is quite simple. NME beats RME & TME. Curiously RME & TME neglect NME, or attack it in ad hominem and not at rem manner. Dutch readers can check my letter to parliament.

  • There is no reason on content for RME & TME to neglect NME, since NME is better than both on both insight and skill.
  • That RME rejects a better analysis can be understood from RME’s genesis as an ideology. Ideologues like Koeno Gravemeijer are not interested in empirics but in writing about their ideology.
  • That TME neglects a better analysis can be understood from its focus on RME, but also from the property that mathematicians are trained in abstraction and not in empirical science (which also caused the RME disaster).
  • There is a curious attitude: “When you don’t agree with us then you must be against us and thus with the other side.”
  • The empirical operationalisation of insight and skill and the production factors that cause them will help to put flesh on these graphs. This will reduce the impact of ideology, and will shift the focus to competence in research (see the failure of psychometric research w.r.t. arithmetic and algebra).

Radar TV is a consumer awareness programme, with Antoinette Hertsenberg in the role of Ralph Nader. Hertsenberg is annoyed that banks rule supreme again. Banks caused the 2007+ economic crisis and should have been tackled, cut up into pieces and put under surveillance. None of this happened, and we are heading for the next crisis.

Radar TV had two broadcasts in 2015 about borrowing and debt repayment, and then on January 14 2016 had a third event, a college / lecture, with presentations by three “experts” followed by discussion with the audience.

Unfortunately, the “experts” were no real experts: Dirk Bezemer, Klaas van Egmond, Gerhard Hormann.

A major problem is that economist Bezemer and engineer Van Egmond repeated the disinformation that they already committed with respect to Dutch Parliament in 2015. I reported on this in November 2015. Thus, Bezemer & Van Egmond have learned nothing and continue disinforming others.

PM. Some email-exchange on this with Van Egmond is included in this report, that deals with another issue, namely Rob van Dorland ((KNMI) in the context of the environment and climate change (check Paris 2015).

In earlier broadcasts but not now: Arnoud Boot

The earlier Radar TV broadcasts showed professor Arnoud Boot of the University of Amsterdam. He did not perform at this college / lecture.

Boot agrees on this: the ECB is buying time with its Quantitative Easing at the rate of EUR 60 bn per month. This money only stays in the financial circuits, reduces interest rates for savers and pensioners, raises stock prices for the wealthy, and doesn’t generate real investments when demand is wanting. When economies do not redress the banks then the next crisis will hurt even more.

There is a longer interview with Boot by “gold bug” Willem Middelkoop, December 24 2015. Around 2008, Middelkoop warned for an even bigger crash, set up a business advising people to buy gold and commodities rather than paper, and then sold his business. The bigger crash did not come. Apparently he still is taken seriously by some people. See my earlier discussion of the “gold bugs“. The 2015 interview with Boot shows that Middelkoop can ask some standard questions that are interesting when you haven’t heard them before. He doesn’t ask the critical ones. Boot doesn’t mind that people don’t ask the critical questions.

It is informative that Boot announces that he and the WRR (scientific council) will put out a report in April 2016 about disengaging the economy from the financial sector. Hopefully Boot and WRR will look at my paper “Money as gold versus money as water” (2013). Boot however fails by not protesting against the censorship of science by the directorate of the Dutch Central Planning Bureau, see here.

Bezemer repeats disinformation

Dirk Bezemer (University of Groningen) started out as an economist in agriculture and development. He shifted to finance after the crisis in 2007+. This change is acceptable. Also John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006) started out as an agricultural economist. Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the current (financial) president of the Eurozone, is an “agricultural engineer”. While this is acceptable, the problem lies in the attitude. When Dijsselbloem gets criticism that his knowledge on macro-economics is lacking, then he should pay attention, see here. When Bezemer receives criticism that he misinforms others, then he should take notice.

Bezemer drew much attention with the paper “No one saw this coming”. Bezemer here quotes Alan Greenspan, and then shows that there were warnings that Greenspan did not listen to.

You might expect that Bezemer might learn from such a paper that he himself should not make the same mistake as Greenspan. You might hope that Bezemer has become very careful in listening to criticism and warnings by others. However, Bezemer does not refer to my analysis since 1990 that also warned about the risks in the current economic structure. See my 2009 memo on this. He doesn’t do anything with my email to him about this. He does not study it, he does not write about it, he does not speak about it. Bezemer deliberately blocks my analysis with a wall of silence. We are 7 years further now, and Bezemer hasn’t found time to look at an analysis by a fellow economist who worked at the Dutch CPB in 1982-1991, and who was hit by censorship and foul dismissal.

This clarifies the distinction that I make between Boot and Bezemer. Both of them neglect the censorship of science by the directorate of the Dutch CPB. But Bezemer is much more outspoken about the blindness. Bezemer selected that blindness as his topic of research, and as a scientist he should look at all the evidence.

It is becoming a running gag on this weblog that Bezemer disinforms others. I already reported that he disinformed Sweden in 2012 and Dutch Parliament in 2015. It is not a running gag but a serious issue. This weblog has a scientific position, and malconduct by scientists cannot be neglected. Please note that I have not been following all that Bezemer has been doing or presenting.

In minute 90 Bezemer states that there is not enough communication about the issue (“Er is te weinig gesprek over.”), which neglects that he himself blocks my analysis with a wall of silence. Dutch readers may look at my evaluation of the deficient Report on Banking, written by Herman Wijffels (see below) and Arnoud Boot. Bezemer disinformed Radar TV not only on my analysis. When Klaas van Egmond made similar errors as I had warned about, Bezemer did not pass on my criticism (and did not say to me why my criticism would be deficient).

Bezemer: "There is not enough discussion." Source: Radar TV minute 90

Bezemer: “There is not enough communication.” Source: Radar TV minute 90

Klaas van Egmond repeats incompetence

Klaas van Egmond (University of Utrecht) is a food technology engineer who turned to environmental issues, who became head of the Dutch environmental planning agency (MNP), and who in the 2007+ crisis became co-founder of what they call the “Sustainable Finance Lab” (SFL) at UU.

In minute 110 in the college / lecture, Van Egmond rallies against banks that sold mortgages using the argument that the economy would continue to grow and grow forever.

  • He laments how dumb people have been in believing those banks.
  • He laments how mean and false those banks have been, since they must have known that their story was too good to be true.

However, in his own presentation (minute 45:30), Van Egmond presents a plan with “positive money” so that the economy can grow again (at least to 2050, perhaps not for ever and ever). This is inconsistent. In itself one can imagine an argument “continued growth is only possible with positive money”, but Van Egmond’s statement at minute 110 is apodictic against growth in general.

Growth by Van Egmond, Source: Radar TV minute 45:30.

Red line: growth by Van Egmond, Source: Radar TV minute 45:30.

More fundamentally, the “positive money” plan that Van Egmond presents suggests that the government would have billions from seigniorage to spend on public goods (perhaps even thirty billion). He suggests that this seigniorage is currently appropriated by banks. However, as I wrote him, he neglects both the proper value of the velocity of money and transaction costs. The payment system does not come for free. See my paper “Money as gold versus money as water” (2013) for an indicative calculation that seigniorage would be needed to cover the costs of the payment system. Unless you want to pay a percentage at each transaction, of course.

What is flabbergasting is that Van Egmond in an email acknowledges that he disinformed Dutch Parliament in 2015, but he still repeats the same disinformation at Radar TV in 2016. In this email he states both that he caused confusion for Parliament, and that a velocity of money of 1 (stock of money M = P Y / V = P Y = nominal national income) needs “careful attention”. Either this “careful attention” is a diplomatic rephrasing of “oops, this was a serious mistake” or he really doesn’t see the issue even when it has been pointed out to him: but in the latter case it is not clear what the “confusion” would be. Overall, Van Egmond disinforms Radar TV that above growth path would be feasible in the manner that he dreams up.

“Ik heb met de veronderstelling dat de velocity = 1 (geldhoeveelheid ongeveer gelijk aan BNP (pY)) inderdaad verwarring gesticht. Hoewel we op grond van onze berekeningen die veronderstelling menen te kunnen rechtvaardigen, is voorzichtigheid inderdaad geboden.” (Van Egmond, email 2015-11-18, here p26)

PM. There is the following curious issue. In the real-time broadcast Van Egmond stated that no economist had seen the crisis coming. I could not find this statement in the online version. Has it been edited out, or did I not search well enough ? In the session at Parliament, Van Egmond stated the same, and he quoted the paper by Bezemer as if this had shown that no economist had seen the crisis coming. The session at Parliament showed that Van Egmond hadn’t read Bezemer’s paper and misstated its summary. Perhaps Bezemer now protested, and Radar TV allowed Van Egmond to delete the passage ?

Van Egmond is a danger for his & the environment

The UU “Sustainable Finance Lab” (SFL) has been created by Klaas van Egmond and Herman Wijffels. At some time Arnoud Boot joined up. Van Egmond & Wijffels create the image as if they are supportive for the environment but critical of banks. Klaas van Egmond, however blocked Hueting’s analysis on the economics of the environment. Wijffels is a former CEO at RABO Bank, guilty of the same behaviour as banks in general, while Wijffels himself turned RABO Bank from a co-operative into the competitive bonus-driven bank that contributed to the LIBOR scandal. A diagram of the relationships may help to better see the abuse of science at Utrecht University.

Diagram of the abuse of science at University of Utrecht

Diagram of the abuse of science at Utrecht University

One would think that Dutch people are interested in rising sea levels. If there is one nation other than the island nations that will drown, one would expect that Holland would pay keen attention to Climate Change. Instead, Holland appointed Klaas van Egmond to become director of the Dutch environmental planning bureau (MNP).

Van Egmond blocked the analysis by Roefie Hueting on environmental sustainability. See my earlier weblog text on Hueting’s analysis.

In that same email of November 18 2015, Van Egmond argues that he didn’t see anything in Hueting’s analysis after “careful consideration” (my translation into English). However, Van Egmond never published what those “careful considerations” were. Thus he blocked a scientific discussion on those, and swept the issue under the carpet. In the email he states another apodiction: as if we cannot assess environmental damage. This runs counter to economic theory that policy better be formulated with the best information available. You may not like the quality of the information but it still is the best available, and you can at least try to handle the uncertainties as best as possible.

There is more: As long as Van Egmond uses such apodictions and doesn’t state in scientific manner what his objections are, we can suspect that his view actually is a matter of ideology and blindness. Namely, there are (at least) three approaches w.r.t. the economy and the environment:

  • (Neoclassical) Economists, like Pigou, Keynes, Robbins, Tinbergen, Hueting and me, who rely on the theory of economic welfare and national income accounting. Yes, there are discussions amongst economists, but they are all aware that governments must take decisions about next year’s budget. The Tinbergen & Hueting approach was much discriminated against by mainstream economists who were and are not interested in the environment. See my draft book: The Tinbergen & Hueting Approach in the Economics of Ecological Survival,
  • Engineers like Dennis Meadows and Van Egmond, who use “system dynamics” developed in engineering, for which economic theory is a distraction. This was used by the Club of Rome report that neglected price developments and such (so that many economists lost interest). The model that Van Egmond tries to use at “Sustainable Finance Lab” (with above misleading diagram on growth) is from this type of research.
  • Mathematicians like Georgescu-Roegen start with thermodynamics and entropy. Obviously entropy is a key notion in physics, but as long as the Sun keeps emitting light then Earth has an inflow of energy, and this approach on entropy may be abstractly correct but is not immediately relevant in terms of economics. Fleeing from Europe, Georgescu-Roegen came in the USA and they might have given him a professorship in statistics but they gave him erroneously a professorship in “economics”. There is a curious role by Herman Daly who had a B.A. and went directly to a Ph. D. in “economics” with thesis supervisor Georgescu-Roegen (see here). Daly continued with what is called “ecological economics” but which is not really economics. The field florished for a long while because mainstream economists were not so much interested in the environment.

The basic idea by SFL seems to be that the current structure of finance causes insustainability both for finance and the environment. This is a nice slogan that combines two topics that are somewhat popular. There is no proof for that slogan however. It is somewhat curious to link the notion of an insustainable financial debt to the issues of environmental sustainability. It makes more sense to regard the two subjects separately. See Hueting for the environment. See DRGTPE for finance, with updates in “Common Sense: Boycott Holland” (CSBH) and “Money as gold versus money as water”.

Gerhard Hormann and mortgage debt

A final Radar TV “expert” is Gerhard Hormann, urban planner and political scientist, who advised people before the 2007+ crisis to get rid of their mortgages. Hormann did not discover the risk himself but was alerted by a book by historian Eric Mecking. Perhaps it is useful to look at this connection later on, and see how Mecking and Hormann react when they hear that they have been disinformed by economists Wijffels, Boot and Bezemer.


The anatomy of Holland shows a morass fitting for a delta. It is encouraging to hear that Bezemer agrees that there is not enough communication and that Boot is working on yet another report on the banks. The issue will remain in people’s attention, perhaps till the delta is flooded by rising sea levels. It still is useful to boycott Holland till the censorship of science since 1990 by the directorate of the Dutch CPB is lifted.

Teaching arithmetic in elementary school might be a terrible waste of time. Instead, let kids learn to co-operate, and only later discover with how many other people they can co-operate ? When presidents Obama and Putin could co-operate, then wouldn’t the world be a better place, instead of when each is counting how many warheads and carriers they have ?

Would we dare to make the switch ? We rational people of 2015 embrace evidence based education and we would not easily make such a switch in educational goals and methods. At least, this is official lingo. In reality 2015 is still haunted by ideology. We now have “21st century skills” as the new fashion.

Ideology versus evidence based education

In official lingo it were the 1960s and 1970s during which ideologies ruled supreme. Hans Freudenthal (1905-1990) opposed what he denounced as ‘traditional drilling’ to what he praised as ‘understanding’. Words are so great when you don’t have to do empirical tests. Freudenthal developed what he called “realistic mathematics education” (RME) and he succeeded in bullying Dutch education to adopt his approach. RME ideologists are using the bandwagon of “21st century skills” to sell their stories again.

The advent of the (graphical) calculator seemed to support the argument: the calculator can do the number crunching, you need only understand what you are doing. Ah, life can be so great when you can fool yourself and others with such one-liners.

An important element in the RME strategy is to hijack words. Arithmetic originally means the mastery of some algorithms that are also the basis of algebra. In RME this is relabeled as “mechanistic” and “cyphering”. The hijacked notion of “arithmetic” would be something like being able to do RME. Let us not fall into that trap, and compare proper arithmetic with RME-arithmetic. Yes, crummy arithmetic is also a form of arithmetic. Don’t let this property to be misused to replace the one by the other.

Empirical testing is difficult when you put on blinders

A simple empirical test is that the kids show their understanding by solving sums and let the teacher do the calculations. Let us allow the teacher to use a calculator to avoid embarrassment.

A known test question is: An apple and a walnut cost EUR 1.10. The apple is EUR 1 more expensive than the walnut. What is the price of the walnut ?

What does this question actually test ? RME calls it a “context question”, since a context from real life is used to hide an underlying problem in arithmetic. “Context” however is a RME word. It hides that we are discussing applications of mathematics. The RME view tends to put emphasis on the underlying RME-arithmetic. Some say that it also tests competence in language. My suggestion is that language and arithmetic play a role but that major issues for this question are algebra and the ability of modeling once you can do algebra. Translating the question namely gives:

Solve for price a for the apple and price w for the walnut, using
a + w = 1.10
aw = 1

Language thus is relevant indeed for translating the words into equations, and arithmetic is relevant indeed for the actual calculations: but the major issue are algebraic. If you don’t use the word “algebra” then you have mis-specified what the problem tests for. Calling it merely a “context” is like throwing a crow-bar at mathematics education.

Perhaps this definition is useful: basic arithmetic uses numbers only, basic algebra uses symbols only, and it depends a bit upon context how cases are called that combine numbers and symbols. Is a + 2 a = 3 a arithmetic or algebra ? It seems okay when a school program classifies this as being part of its course in arithmetic.

Some students solve above question by using numbers only. They try different numbers by guessing and probing. Taking the price of the apple as EUR 1, leaves a price of the walnut as EUR 0.10. This gives a difference of EUR 0.90, which differs from the required EUR 1 by being EUR 0.10 short. The latter might be split, by raising the price guess of the apply by EUR 0.05 and lowering the price guess of the walnut by the same amount.

The latter is just one of the many amazing ways how one can avoid doing algebra. Mankind has been avoiding doing algebra for most of its existence.

Requiring evidence based education without a framework or platform ?

If this simple way of testing had been done in the 1970s then RME could have been killed in the bud. Instead, RME ruled supreme in Holland, and Dutch students from elementary school up to university can hardly do arithmetic.

The Dutch government is trying to make tests on arithmetic mandatory for highschool students, in order to force teachers to start using methods that work. Like perhaps so-called “drilling”.

A problem for teachers is that they hardly have research to guide them. There is neither a framework or platform to settle issues in a scientific manner. In the mean time, the development of proper tests apparently is a disaster as well (news item January 2015).

Any research on mathematics education is being attacked from either of the two sectarian groups that still exist. There are two sectarian groups now in Holland:

  1. The RME theorists at the Freudenthal Head in the Clouds “Realistic Mathematics” Institute (FHCRMI) who claim that RME theory is fine and that the problem has been implementation.
  2. The group with informal leader Jan van de Craats (emeritus UvA) who propose to use traditional education “updated with the best elements of RME” (without specifying what those elements are).

Compared to these sectarian groups, my proposal since 2008 has been to create a Simon Stevin Institute, as a framework and platform to discuss research results, and to create evidence based education in mathematics. See the earlier weblog text on the power void in mathematics education. With such a framework the two sectarian groups will disappear since their arguments from ideology will not matter anymore. They can supply hypotheses but their ability to manipulate outcomes will be severely limited.

It is bizarre that the Dutch government called for evidence based education but didn’t establish a framework or platform for this implementation yet. A new initiative is however the creation of a body to supervise the development of the curriculum, see this advice by the council on education, that refers to the “21st century skills”. If this body accepts standards of science, then it would enhance evidence based education.

  • It is important to specify the link of RME to “21st century skills”, so that this new body is cleansed from the Freudenthal disaster, and adopts the notion of evidence based education.
  • It remains advisable to have separate regulations for fields like mathematics, because there is the eternal confusion as if mathematicians are also knowledgeable about mathematics education.

Research funds for education are now regulated by the NWO / NRO, but this essentially means a paradise for unattached researchers who can do their hobbies. Instead, what is required for evidence based education is the link to actual practice, to develop hypotheses for improvement, perform tests, and embed implementations. Compare to Academic Hospitals. Current departments of education at universities should better transform themselves into that format.

The word “algebra” is missing in Van de Craats (2007) and Hickendorff (2011)

Performance on arithmetic in Dutch elementary schools has been tested by CITO. The Hickendorff (2011) thesis evaluated those test scores. This thesis refers to Van de Craats (2007) in Dutch who criticised RME. The word “algebra” is missing in both. Perhaps some texts might be interpreted as referring to algebra by implication, but this might be too lenient. The word “algebra” is also missing in the presentations for the 2014 conference of KNAW, see Hickendorff (2014) and Van de Craats (2014).

Hickendorff uses outcomes of test questions as the criterion of competence in arithmetic, while the true criterion should also look at how the answer is found. For above test question, we found that an answer might be found by guessing and probing, while the real issue is whether the student has developed adequate understanding and skill in algebra and modeling. Looking at outcomes only is invalid for proper decisions on education. This is like looking whether a horse is pregnant and forgetting about whether the sire is another horse or a donkey. It really matters for the future what the offspring looks like.

A major reason to require mastery of traditional algorithms for arithmetic is that those are required for algebra in secondary education. Merely focusing on outcomes of sums is inadequate.

Hickendorff (2011:233) does not really capture the point that Van de Craats (2007) might not make clear enough. This is an inadequate summary:

“(…) for example Van der Craats (2007) argued that these procedural skills are at the core of mathematics, and should therefore receive much more instruction, drill, and practice, than they receive now.”

A proper summary would have been, but, admittedly, Van de Craats didn’t phrase it so clearly:

“if you don’t test on those algebraic / procedural skills, then you allow for education that will handicap students w.r.t. mathematics for the rest of their lives.” (no quote)

One of the conclusions of the Hickendorff thesis is that RME and traditional methods are almost equally good. Policy makers have been referring to this. But the conclusion is invalid. The two teaching methods cannot be usefully compared by looking at outcomes of sums only.

Hickendorff (2011:232) (eliminating references) tends to advise traditional methods by referring to weak students who are not flexible w.r.t. strategies – which however neglects the argument on algebra for students who might be flexible but who would be given a handicap.

“Another relevant comparison is between the accuracy of traditional and nontraditional strategies. A recurring finding in this thesis was that the traditional algorithm was usually equally accurate in division (… note however that this only held for low and high achievers; for medium achievers the traditional division algorithm was significantly more accurate than non-traditional strategies …) and more accurate in multiplication (…) and in subtraction and addition (…). (…) these patterns raise questions on the desirability of learning/teaching trajectory end-points other than the traditional algorithm. Combined with the pattern emerging from the review in Chapter 1 and international reviews (…) that low mathematics achievers benefit from a more directing instruction, these students in particular may need instruction in one standard procedure to solve a problem. We argue that this standard strategy should preferably be the traditional algorithm.”

PM. The Hickendorff (2011) thesis has more objectives. A key one is to provide a bridge between psychology and psychometrics. I am no expert on any of these, and I find it amazing to read parts of the Borsboom (2006) critique that there are intellectual gaps even in this realm. See the weblog text on A.D. de Groot, and the fear that cognitive psychology has reduced itself to behaviorism again.

Pursuing the question why the word “algebra” went missing

How is it possible that Hickendorff made such a crucial mistake ?

She informs me by email that she is a psychometrician and has no background in mathematics education research (MER). I find it illuminating and fitting for research integrity that one specifies one’s limitations. However, it is problematic to do research on a topic and not do research on it. The thesis is not an abstract exercise with random numbers. The thesis really aspires at conclusions on substance (the title of section 8.1 on page 229), whence the author ought to have looked at the substance.


Blinders (wikipedia)

Observe that Hickendorff is a psychometrician, and thus uses a lot of mathematics. It isn’t rocket science to see the role for algebra, especially when it has been pointed out to you.

In 2009 there was a special edition of Tijdschrift voor Orthopedagogiek — Jrg. 48 (mei 2009) Nr. 5. It is remarkable that Van der Plas, Verhoef and Milikowski are not referred to by Hickendorff (2011):

  • Van Putten & Hickendorff, with findings similar to the 2011 thesis, and again no word “algebra”.
  • Van de Craats, with findings similar to 2007, and again no word “algebra”.
  • Liesbeth van der Plas, with the proper analysis that traditional algorithms are required for later algebra. (Dutch p210: “Om ervoor te zorgen dat wiskundeleraren in de brugklas ook daadwerkelijk kunnen beginnen met algebra, is het van belang dat de basisschool haar leerlingen goed heeft leren rekenen met hele getallen, decimale getallen en breuken.”) (This article is also on her website.)
  • Gerard Verhoef, similarly, though only one sentence. (Dutch p223: “Dat heeft overigens het gevolg dat ook de algebra van het voortgezet onderwijs niet in vruchtbare aarde valt. Als je niet met getallen kunt rekenen, dan ook niet met letters (zie de bijdrage van Liesbeth van der Plas elders in dit tijdschrift).”)
  • Marisca Milikowski, who advises a series of tests on RME versus traditional methods, so that ideology is replaced by empirics. (Dutch p218: “Niettemin, we zouden het kunnen onderzoeken. Zou dat niet chiquer zijn dan altijd weer die stemmingmakerij?”)

Thus crucial questions for Hickendorff, the thesis advisors W.J. Heiser, C.M. van Putten and N.D. Verhelst, and the thesis reading committee A.A. Beguin, P.A.L. de Boeck, E.H. Kroesbergen and L. Verschaffel, are:

  1. Did they read Van der Plas, Verhoef and Milikowski ? What were the findings from that reading ? If they were not read, why not ?
  2. Perhaps a paraphrase: Why are those publications not mentioned in the list of references, and only Van de Craats ? Van de Craats is not necessarily qualified for primary education, while Van der Plas is qualified for the role for algebra for secondary education.
  3. Why is the word “algebra” missing ? Why is the link between arithmetic and algebra not specified, e.g. for the learning objectives ?
  4. Why is nothing or perhaps hardly anything done with the proposal by Milikowski ? Was the thinking that the thesis provided the distinguishing tests ? So why don’t RME stop with the ideology ? But why is it not clear that you have to know more about the competence in the traditional algorithms, for later algebra, to make the proper distinction ?

Another question, not important is: I wrote Van de Craats in 2008 that the conventional notation of mixed fractions is crooked. When students are confused then they have every right to be so. (See here and here.) This notation thus cannot be used for testing. Has this played any role in this discussion ? Or has Van de Craats been silent on this ? If the latter is the case, would you agree that he should have mentioned it, since it is obviously relevant ?

And another question: What would these psychometricians think about the proposal by the Onderwijsraad for a permanent body for the curriculum, and the advice (see here) by RME-sectarian Koeno Gravemeijer for “21st century skills” (using arguments taken from RME) ?

Could these psychometricians accept that mathematics education research (MER) (including arithmetic) like the Hickendorff thesis and the other research that they have been doing, requires also a qualification in MER, and that MER requires a new start given the sectarian groups that now exist ?

This present weblog text summarises this paper:

Computer algebra is a revolution. But 21st century skills ?
With protest against misrepresentation by Koeno Gravemeijer

Seminal revolution

We are living during a seminal revolution similar to the invention of the wheel, the alphabet and positional number system:

we can do mathematics on the computer – and it is called “computer algebra”.

We know this since 1963 and Project MAC.  This is doing mathematics, rather than mere programming or punching buttons. Namely compare:

  • The arrival of calculators is not much different from the invention of ruler and compass, or tables for trigonometry and logarithms (recovered exponent, rex rather than log). Those are techniques, with the didactic balance of drilling and understanding.
  • Doing mathematics on the computer however is a game changer.
Challenges for education including mathematics education

There are consequences for education, including mathematics education:

  • Since it is mathematics, computer algebra must also be studied in didactics of mathematics.
  • For education the challenge is to bring computer algebra into the textbooks and the schools in ways that work.
  • Applications of computer algebra to particular fields must be distinguished from those for learning mathematics proper.
  • Computer programming – like the new British curriculum – is another application of mathematics and should not be confused with doing mathematics proper.

In this, there is nothing special about the calendar, the year 2000 and the 21st century.

Ghosts from the past

Instead of a fruitful exchange of ideas and experiences on education and didactics on computer algebra, the decision making discussion is haunted by ghosts from the past.

Holland is a small country but it has had some influence on mathematics education, witness the Freudenthal Award at the International Mathematical Union (IMU / ICMI).

  • Hans Freudenthal (1905-1990) created “realistic mathematics education” (RME). This RME was not tested in experimental manner but still introduced generally in Dutch education.
  • RME appears to be a failure. It is rather not a theory but an ideology, given how it originated, was executed and monitored.
  • The Dutch government in 2015 has set up additional courses and exams for secondary education to correct for what now has gone lacking in primary education.
  • In 2014 it appeared that Freudenthal also committed intellectual fraud on RME by appropriating and misrepresenting ideas from Pierre van Hiele (1909-2010).

It is a horribly huge project to re-evaluate all publications by supporters of RME and separate science from ideology. Perhaps the best way is to annul everything. Anyone who refers to such a RME publication would have to treat it like astrology, and have to redo the claimed RME research from scratch in a proper way.

Who still supports RME is in a state of denial.

  • Koeno Gravemeijer (1946) has been promoting RME since around 1980 apparently without real interest in testing it, without discovering this (obvious) fraud, and has since 2008 not explicitly accepted its failure.
  • Since at least 2001 Gravemeijer argues for “21st century skills”, and uses the same arguments as for RME.
  • Gravemeijer has written on computer algebra and supervised the Paul Drijvers (2003) thesis on this subject. Yet, both of them are supporters of RME. Their wrong handling of didactics on RME makes their expertise on didactics of computer algebra questionable too.

Gravemeijer’s lecture for the November 2015 NVVW annual convention of teachers of mathematics in Holland:

  • neglected the failure of RME
  • was scare-mongering about the economic risks of the 21st century (greater dynamics on the jobs market)
  • and disinformative about the really interesting challenges with respect to computer algebra.
Screenshot of the Dutch website for 21st century skills in mathematics and arithmetic

Screenshot of the Dutch website for 21st century skills in mathematics and arithmetic

21st century skills

There is nothing particular about the year 2000 and the calendar, but perhaps one might forgive marketing people for using new labels. Technology develops faster than society indeed, and thus there are real challenges to select and further R&D those technologies that are useful. Marketing people also have clients, of course.

There is more than computer algebra. Computers allow adaptive testing and assessment. Internet technology allows more integration of functions than before. Chemistry and biology and nano have their impact. Cognitive, neuro and social psychology have their impact too. Economics and law are there too. Thus, obviously, there is more than computer algebra. One can understand that some educators create a platform like p21. The partnership for 21st century skills that includes the US Department of Education states:

“P21’s mission is to serve as catalyst for 21st century learning to build collaborative partnerships among education, business, community and government leaders so that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills they need to thrive in a world where change is constant and learning never stops.”  (

This however is tricky:

  • In general this is an issue for political economy, i.e. the theory of management of the state. Rather than getting lost in this particular p21, it is better to make the proper economic analysis.
  • One insight is to design institutions that deal with these issues structurally. One such ideas perhaps 200 year ago has been to create a Department of Education. Thus if DoE doesn’t handle the issue itself and needs such p21, then something is amiss with the institutional structure. In general: (1) at the micro level teaching is too specialised on teaching with insufficient time for research and development, (2) at the meso level teachers have insufficient  influence on design of the curriculum.
  • A key role remains for mathematics. When students get a proper training in mathematics then they are better equipped for the future. Other fields like physics and economics can prosper with mathematically competent students. The horror story of RME shows that something has been amiss in the institutional framework here too.
The power unbalance for teachers of mathematics

The current decision making framework puts teachers in a powerless position. Each nation should rather create a national institute for mathematics education, with a key role for teachers. For Holland I propose a Simon Stevin Institute (SSI), honoring the engineers rather than the abstract thinking mathematicians.

See this earlier weblog text on the power void. (Actually, unbalance is a better word than void, since the void is filled by educators and projects like 21st century skills.)

PM 1. Expertise and disclaimer

I write this as an econometrician (Groningen 1982) and teacher of mathematics (Leiden 2008). I also have some background in computer algebra: which may also be regarded as a vested interest.

  • My three books that use computer algebra are Voting Theory for Democracy (2001, 2014), A Logic of Exceptions (2007, 2011) and Conquest of the Plane (2011), all applications of Mathematica (developed by Wolfram Research Inc.).
  • Logic and analytic geometry and calculus are obvious mathematics, and voting theory comes with discrete mathematics and axiomatics. The objective of these books is to re-engineer mathematics in those fields, and they use only a small part of the functionality of Mathematica.
  • See also The Economics Pack. Applications of Mathematica.
PM 2. Conrad Wolfram and

At some time in the last decade there was a MathWire that stated that Conrad Wolfram took the initiative for what now has become (It is UK based but uses US “math” instead of UK “maths”.) I didn’t join since some aspects are too critically sensitive to local customs and regulations. Conrad’s recent weblog text is:

“I am not the slightest bit surprised at the recent OECD report that use of computers in education hasn’t improved PISA results − and indeed that many countries with the best technology provision have mediocre performance. Why? Because the world’s most transformative machines have been used for entirely the wrong purpose in most classrooms: automating pedagogy not changing the subject taught. Countries with the most attentive teaching are also likely countries where there is least pressure to computerise pedagogy for teaching today’s school subjects. They do best in PISA because they are best at helping students through those subjects.” (Conrad Wolfram, September 15 2015)

People not familiar with the issue will enjoy this talk at Wise Channel Doha, November 15 2012.

People familiar with the issue will enjoy the discussion at the end. At minute 23 moderator Jon Snow, doing an excellent job, puts two questions to Conrad. The first is how to deal with computers that are still fallible (as if the human brain is infallible). The second is that learning arithmetic also teaches about logic. Thus, replacing arithmetic with the magic of computer outcomes may destroy the learning of logic. Conrad starts with the latter and correctly answers that programming teaches you about logic too. However, it also causes him to question the use of teaching long division (at 24:30). Naturally it is an empirical question what works. However, as a teacher I would hold that it is useful to have been taught long division at an early age, in particular since it helps you to understand e.g. why 3 / 4 becomes decimal format 0.75 or 75%. It won’t do to let this remain a great mystery. (See the earlier weblog text that also mentions the dismal alternative to long division: partial quotients.) It is a good project in learning to program to actually write a program for long division: and then it is rather necessary to know what it is and why it works always. Why do I mention this ? The key observation is: Conrad has no formal training on didactics as a teacher. His views on education and didactics do not have such a base, however informative and stimulating as they are. The uplifting aspect is that he is developing the community at and we ought to expect evolution of ideas.

Conrad Wolfram on long division, Wise Channel Doha October 2013 (Screenshot)

Conrad Wolfram on long division, Wise Channel Doha October 2013 (Screenshot)

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. 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.

Intermezzo December 29 2015
(1) It appears that Vittorio Busato developed basically the same view, though not explicitly linking to the ALLEA code.
(2) For Dutch readers, there is A.D. de Groot & H. Visser (2003), Het forumwaarmerk van wetenschap, at KNAW
(3) For English readers, there is only A.D. de Groot (1984), The theory of the science forum: subject and purport.
Methodology and Science, 17, 230-259, which journal ISSN 0543-6095 was published in 1968-1995 (J.H. Kok, Kampen).

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. (Read De Groot’s texts on this.)

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. This would include its president Drenth. Reply came from director Moen. (A contact-person has also been Dirk de Hen, now webmaster at ENRIO: European Network of Research Integrity Officers.) (For these letters, see here under “KNAW”.)

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).

[Update 2015-12-07: Drenth informs me that he has no recollection of having seen these letters or issue, and that he presumes that director Moen has dealt with them administratively according to established procedure: which he was responsible for in 1990-1996 and which he still agrees with.]

  • 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.
  • [Update 2015-12-07: That Drenth says that he didn’t see these letters doesn’t change his responsibility for the policy of neglect, and thus there is no reason to change the observation of 2015-11-26:] 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.

Update 2015-12-07: Drenth’s reaction allows to reformulate the following aspects more clearly.

I am trying to understand what is happening. How can someone with an interest in science neglect this censorship ? Watchers of the video who wonder about this question too are advised to pay attention to the following aspects.

(i) When asked to become secretary at KNAW, Drenth says that it is a body that doesn’t fight for a single university but

“for science for the whole of The Netherlands, you may say”.
(Dutch text (minute 55): “Het leek mij toch ook wel weer aardig om de KNAW [te doen], dat is een geheel nieuw orgaan [voor mij] waarin je niet vecht voor één universiteit maar voor de wetenschap van heel Nederland, zeg maar.”)

Indeed, when there is censorship of science in Holland then one would expect to hear a protest by KNAW. But there wasn’t. This weblog text substitutes “President KNAW 1990-1996” with “Pieter Drenth”. There is no objective to evaluate professor Drenth’s scientific career and achievements, but only to clarify that there is dismal hypocrisy w.r.t. the censorship of science by the CPB directorate. It is important to make the substitution, because Drenth proceeded as president ALLEA 2000-2006 and has become an icon of scientific integrity: which is a huge misconception.

(ii) 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, rector magnificus, president. (iii) He always worked in the tailwind of the mainstream developments in psychological testing. (iv) His knowledge of mathematics is likely to 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. (v) His “conflict” with the “powerful” graphologists was quite a sensation for him since it seemed “huge” but the facts are a bit different – see below. (i) – (v) For him it might be conceptually difficult to understand what it is, when a directorate turns against science, abuses its power, and censors science.

Ad (iii): Judgement about tailwind or headwind requires knowledge of the history of psychology as a science in Holland. I do not have that knowledge. My intention is only to alert viewers to the issue. My own impression is that there is a tailwind. I am responding largely to this video itself. The career itself is indicative too. I consider it a tailwind when Snijders and De Groot ask him to write a book on Test Theory, since this meant from the beginning a support from two key figures. (At minute 41 in the video there is talk about translating APA rules, that causes Drenth to remark that there is a greater need for an introductory book, and then they ask why he doesn’t write it himself. It is not clear why they didn’t use an American book, or translate it, though English was already the language of science.)

Ad (iv): I have done no magic test at distance of Drenth’s math skills in past or present. I just warn viewers of the video: when the video speaks about mathematical skills, surpassing those of his contemporary fellow students in psychology around 1945, then viewers should be critical about what that level actually was, and that it might suffice to be at the level of a current bachelor. I never saw the book “Testtheorie”. It is intended as an introduction. It is used e.g. in the 2nd year of pedagogy at RUG.  It might be a valuable book for bachelor students. I am not judging professor Drenth’s mathematical skills by this book, and neither of co-author prof. dr. K. Sijtsma (currently dean in Tilburg). Authors of books for bachelors tend to have more knowledge of the field than bachelors, and for mathematics this might now be professor Sijtsma.

I didn’t say that Drenth is vain but at risk of vanity. In the video interview at minute 43 he states with a smile that students liked new editions of his textbook on Test Theory less when there appeared more formulas in them: why would this be a cause for smiling ? My effort as a teacher of mathematics is that students should be comfortable with formulas. (This very weblog text alerted Drenth to the problem that research mathematicians (RM) pontificate on mathematics education research (MER) that they are not qualified for. His reaction is that this is annoying but he doesn’t hold this to be a breach of ALLEA research integrity. Again we see the difference between a focus on so-called “research integrity” and proper scientific integrity.)

Ad (v) In the video he dates his “crusade against graphology” in 1968-69, but he informs me that it was in 1963. Originally I stated: “the graphologists were already losing from international science and its computers”. We can subtract 5 years from this statement. In 1963, we are still speaking 18 years after the end of World War 2. There had been quite some technological development, see this other video on the invention of “time sharing“. Yes, graphology was still “important” in Human Resources Departments around 1963 but a check shows that A.D. de Groot did some critical tests in 1947 and that the approach was stopped by the thesis by Abraham Jansen (1963), “Toetsing van grafologische uitspraken: een experimentele studie”, written under supervision by A.D. de Groot. (Skepsis, interview De Groot 2004 page 19 second column). There is also a report of a working group in that year, that likely relates to this thesis. I think that Drenth has had tailwind.

Video minutes 43:30-45:00 gives his assumption that his own “crusade” against graphology helped in eradicating the approach. He states that his crusade started by three large articles by graphologist Wolters in “NRC-Handelsblad” (though this newspaper came about only by a merger in 1970), with his reply in three large articles. He “got later support from the thesis by Jansen”. Everyone who stops for a moment of critical consideration should agree that it was rather De Groot in 1947 who started this, and that the scientific evidence given by the thesis by Jansen would have weighed more than the three newspaper articles by Drenth, or his later public discussion with Wittenberg, chair of the association of graphologists.

Remember that this is not a discussion about graphology. It is a discussion on Pieter Drenth not admitting: “I was deluded and didn’t do anything about the censorship of science by the CPB-directorate since 1990 while KNAW should have done so. Let me inform the current president of KNAW that they don’t make the same mistake now.”

Cover of the 1973 English translation of Jansen 1963

Cover of the 1973 English translation of Jansen 1963

Addendum 2015-12-16

Professor Drenth replied to the above on December 2, which gave me the opportunity to enhance clarity (see the edits). I gave him bilaterally my draft response to other points that still caused questions, so that he could rephrase a final reply. Drenth rejects a change in his reply. Thus here is the additional memo:

Why ALLEA doesn’t see censorship of science in Holland
Appendix A: reply by Drenth, Appendix B: email exchange

Drenth rejects the idea that he misjudged the censorship of science in Holland. Drenth doesn’t focus on the suggestion of reviving Forum Theory (A.D. de Groot). He states explicitly that he regards the final section of this weblog text as a personal attack. My response is that this latter statement is a breach of scientific integrity. Denouncing the critique as a personal attack may cause other people to neglect the criticism. There is no personal attack. There is objective reason to discuss the role of Drenth as president KNAW and ALLEA, with his preference for the legal approach and my preference for the scientific approach. One wishes to understand where his policy preference comes from. The video that I found is not helpful, since it is not critical, and thus there are ample reasons to warn viewers about points to be critical about. It is still a mystery why Drenth, who claims to defend science, doesn’t do so in the cases that I mention: CPB and education of mathematics.

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. De Groot and Van Hiele were also inspired by their UvA math teacher Gerrit Mannoury (1867–1956). See this project about Mannoury and significa.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.)
  7. 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.
  8. 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.


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