I touched upon this briefly in my previous post, but I’m going to expound upon it at greater length here: those who are knowledgeable in mathematics have an inherently privileged knowledge of the way that civilization works.
Now, this is not of itself new knowledge. But usually, when people bring this up as a means of encouraging people to learn math, they do so under the implicit neoliberal assumption that people should learn math in order to get a higher-paying job. That is not my aim here.
Rather, I’m directing this message towards (my fellow) discontents with the present dominant political ideology. My point is not that people should learn math in order to assimilate themselves into the economic elite: my point is that the elite (or the employees of the elite)’s relative knowledge of mathematics is one of their tools of control.
Now, I sincerely, sincerely doubt that there is any conscious drive on the part of us mathematically literate people to discourage others from joining our ranks*; but I do believe that if people are genuinely interested in changing the power structure, then encouraging public numeracy is every bit as important today as encouraging public literacy was in the eighteenth century.
One can not realistically hope to change society if one is incapable of understanding the economy in detail, cannot realistically gage the effect that a change in policy is liable to have on demographics, and is incapable of effectively discerning genuine scientific findings from pseudoscience. Activism undertaken without a firm grounding in math (and more particularly, in science) can be misguided, useless or even dangerous, and easily co-opted by cynics to their own benefit.
*At least not on the societal scale; however, I strongly suspect that most of the whole “women are bad at math” stereotype is ultimately rooted in the fact that women, historically, were not in charge of family finances.