A math education professor at the University of Illinois argued in a newly published book that algebraic and geometry skills perpetuate “unearned privilege” among whites.
Rochelle Gutierrez, a professor at the University of Illinois, made the claim in a new anthology for math teachers, arguing that teachers must be aware of the “politics that mathematics brings” in society.
“On many levels, mathematics itself operates as Whiteness. Who gets credit for doing and developing mathematics, who is capable in mathematics, and who is seen as part of the mathematical community is generally viewed as White,” Gutierrez argued.
Gutierrez also worries that algebra and geometry perpetuate privilege, fretting that “curricula emphasizing terms like Pythagorean theorem and pi perpetuate a perception that mathematics was largely developed by Greeks and other Europeans."
Ah, so mathematics is just perpetuating "unearned privilege" because modern mathematics, the foundation of many of the hard sciences we depend on for, well just about everything, is skewed toward whites. Clearly this is unfair and there are just as many non-white math wizards out there that are overlooked because they are not white. More evidence of this is that only around 0.7% of mathematics professors in colleges and universities are black. More racism and "unearned" privilege for whites! Except as one astute commenter pointed out, very few black students that sit for the SAT score top marks in mathematics, quoting from the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education:
If we raise the top-scoring threshold to students scoring 750 or above on both the math and verbal SAT — a level equal to the mean score of students entering the nation’s most selective colleges such as Harvard, Princeton, and CalTech — we find that in the entire country 244 blacks scored 750 or above on the math SAT and 363 black students scored 750 or above on the verbal portion of the test. Nationwide, 33,841 students scored at least 750 on the math test and 30,479 scored at least 750 on the verbal SAT. Therefore, black students made up 0.7 percent of the test takers who scored 750 or above on the math test and 1.2 percent of all test takers who scored 750 or above on the verbal section.
Ms. Gutierrez seems to be from the school of thought that any perceived disparity in outcome must be the result of racism and discrimination. But looking at the list of Fields Medal winners, you see lots and lots of white guys, Asians and Jews. While I didn't look at every single entry, especially the ones with obviously Asian names, I also didn't see a single black or Hispanic on the list (I might have missed some), nor did I see very many women (only one out of 60 winners, and that one in 2014). So apparently there is a conspiracy to keep non-whites and also women out of the field. Or perhaps this is the result of inherent differences in people groups? That is a forbidden topic of conversation but that doesn't mean it is less true. In fact it often seems that the forbidden topics are the most important topics.
|Twitter profile screenshot 3/25/19|
Dr. Gutierrez' scholarship focuses on issues of identity and power in mathematics education, paying particular attention to how race, class, and language affect teaching and learning. Through in-depth analyses of effective teaching/learning communities and longitudinal studies of developing and practicing teachers, her work challenges deficit views of students who are Latinx, Black, and Indigenous and suggests that mathematics teachers need to be prepared with much more than just content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, or knowledge of diverse students if they are going to be successful. They need political knowledge. Her current research projects focus upon: developing in pre-service teachers the knowledge and disposition to teach powerful mathematics to urban students; the roles of uncertainty, tensions, and "Nepantla" in teaching; and the political knowledge (and forms of creative insubordination) that mathematics teachers need to effectively "rehumanize" mathematics in an era of high-stakes education. She also builds upon Indigenous principles and has argued for a new form of mathematics where humans are no long centered. This form of mathematics is referred to as living mathematx.
Why do I suspect that "teaching powerful mathematics" to urban students has more to do with politics than it does with actual math? Meanwhile many of these same "urban students", which is slang for black and Hispanic kids, are going to sit for the SAT/ACT and are going to find out that those tests measure your proficiency in actual mathematics, not "mathematx". Then when they do poorly because their SJW teachers didn't teach them math, we will get the same accusations of racial bias. In reality the standardized tests are biased but they are biased toward people that have mastery of the actual subjects being tested.
The social sciences have long been so infected with political correctness and various forms of pseudo-intellectual Marxist nonsense that a degree in them is not only useless but generally harmful. Now we are starting to see the same thing in the hard sciences and that is dangerous. When an engineer is building the bridge I will drive over, I want them to be selected to design the bridge because they are experts in engineering, not because they are the "right" gender or race to meet a quota. If I die in a bridge collapse it will be little consolation to my family that the designer of the bridge was a woman or minority chosen to overcome the disparity in STEM fields.
This sort of crackpot "education" has far reaching and cumulative impact. The college students being indoctrinated with this garbage are going to be teaching math in public schools. Middle and high school is where kids interested in studying math are supposed to discover that interest and their own inclination. Instead of being exposed to math as a serious discipline, they are going to be taught that the foundations of math are racist or colonialism or some other risible notion and that the goal of mathematics is not the advancement of math and the associated sciences but overcoming "oppression" and advancing a political agenda. This means that many students are going to show up to college ill prepared for college math courses. Of course kids from affluent families will be able to go to academically rigorous schools where they will learn actual math so they have a leg up when they get to college, thus perpetuating their privilege to the next generation.
If you really want to overcome racial disparity in math, you don't change the subject to make it less based in mathematics. You provide a challenging curriculum that focuses on actual math. Dumbing math down, changing it into "mathematx" and making a hard science into a political movement is not going to make minority kids better at math. Math is math. 2 plus 2 will always equal 4. Teach kids math fundamentals and they will be in a position to succeed in the real world. Fail to do that and you just perpetuate the very problems you complain about.