There isn’t much Americans can agree on in these divisive times, but we used to at least be on the same page about some things. Such as: Your ethnicity and social stratus has little or nothing to do with your inherent ability to be good at math. Certain privileges may afford you a leg-up when it comes to actually doing well in math class, yes, but the subject itself is clearly a neutral one. Unlike history or even English, you can’t argue that there is anything inherently biased or oppressive about mathematics.
Well, things have changed.
If Seattle Public Schools adopt a proposal currently being pushed by the district, students will begin learning that math is the product of imperialism, a tool of oppression, and a construct that has been used historically to dehumanize the marginalized. According to Education Week, the proposed curriculum will serve as an optional tool for teachers who want to inject some social justice warriorism into their math classes.
From Education Week:
Seattle’s four-page framework is still in the proposal stage. If adopted, its ideas will be included in existing math classes as part of the district’s broader effort to infuse ethnic studies into all subjects across the K-12 spectrum. Tracy Castro-Gill, Seattle’s ethnic studies director, said her team hopes to have frameworks completed in all subjects by June for board approval.
If the frameworks are approved, teachers would be expected to incorporate those ideas and questions into the math they teach beginning next fall, Castro-Gill said. No districtwide—or mandated—math/ethnic studies curriculum is planned, but groups of teachers are working with representatives of local community organizations to write instructional units for teachers to use if they wish, she said.
“Seattle is definitely on the forefront with this,” said Robert Q. Berry III, the president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. “What they’re doing follows the line of work we hope we can move forward as we think about the history of math and who contributes to that, and also about deepening students’ connection with identity and agency.”
Rod Dreher at The American Conservative called Seattle’s proposition “woke math,” and he’s got the right cut of it. We can’t think of anything that needs an infusion of “ethnic studies” LESS than our math classes. Going back through history and condemning the ways math has been used by imperialists and other oppressors? Exactly how does that help a kid grasp long division? Or is this just a way to excuse certain groups for their failure to do well in Algebra II?
It’s a terrible idea, whatever it is.