Finally, some good news.
After months of debate, the California Board of Education recently announced that it would not implement proposed new “woke” math standards—for now. But just what was this new proposed math going to teach students? Among other things, teachers were to be advised that telling students that they are incorrect is a form of “white supremacy,” that math should be a tool for “social justice,” and that the very idea that math equations have a right and wrong answer is “unequivocally false.”
But it didn’t stop there. The introduction to the proposed math framework also had something to say about the environment. It called on teachers to “be mindful of other considerations that are a high priority for California’s education system including the Environmental Principles and Concepts which allow students to examine issues of environmental and social justice.” In other words, California teachers should use math class teach kids why the Green New Deal is a good idea.
Most troubling of all, however, was the inclusion of the Marxist concept of “equity” in the math framework. “A fundamental aim of this framework is to respond [to] issues of inequity in mathematics learning; equity influences all aspects of this document.” Not some, not most, but all of the math framework. The education bureaucrats who drafted the framework clearly intended that every aspect of a child’s math education would be aimed toward brainwashing students with Marxist ideology.
The framework went so far as to urge that teaching mathematics be used “to counter the cultural forces that have led to and continue to perpetuate current inequities.” “Students’ cultural backgrounds, experiences, and language are resources for learning mathematics,” it says. What evidence does it provide? None. It simply asserts that things that have nothing to do with math are helpful resources for learning math.
The framework also declares that “schooling practices that lead to such race and gender-based disparities can lead to legal liabilities for districts and schools.” What does this mean? In practice, such a standard of disparate impact means that if various racial groups and boys and girls aren’t equally proficient in math, then this is an injustice for which schools could be – and perhaps should be – legally punished. It takes no accounting for whether a certain subject appeals more to boys and girls, or whether families with certain cultural backgrounds emphasize the importance of education more than others, nor does it consider any number of other non-race related factors that contribute to disparate student performance. All performance differences are levelled in the name of an abstract ideology of “equity” that has no relation to the real world.
The outcome of this radical ideology is predictable: it would give educational bureaucrats immense power. In the name of “equity”, it would remove advanced math instruction for the most talented students. Indeed, the framework states, “All students deserve powerful mathematics.” What are “powerful” mathematics? The next statement perhaps clarifies: “we reject ideas of natural gifts and talents. The belief that ‘I treat everyone the same’ is insufficient.” Thus, those students who excel in math class – whether by hard work or natural predisposition to math — will be refused higher level math instruction, all in the name of equity.
The framework is in fact entirely constructed around the idea that there are no differences between people’s ability, desire, or effort to learn math. This contradicts numerous studies about student aptitude, as well as common sense. Some people are better at certain things than others, in every area of life—including mathematics. But for most leftists, the idea of individuality and personal achievement is now simply unpalatable.
The few reasonable education experts left have piled on in opposition to California’s proposed framework. Dr. Williamson M. Evers, a Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute, warned in an open letter that “California is on the verge of politicizing K-12 math in a potentially disastrous way. This postponement means the State Board of Education has heard the message loud and clear. STEM leaders don’t want California students left behind by introducing politics into the math curriculum.”
The letter also pointed out that the framework explicitly rejects the idea that mathematics is a “neutral” discipline and said that its encouragement for teachers to take a “justice-oriented perspective at any grade level, K-12,” would “de-mathemize math.” Further, Evers argues that the framework focuses on “contributions that historically marginalized people have made to mathematics,” which has nothing to do with teaching math and would be more appropriate in a history class, and abandons longstanding standards that have made America competitive with other foreign nations in mathematics.
In short, the framework is a complete and total disaster, which has been avoided for now. But if the current proliferation of Marxist concepts like “equity” and “Critical Race Theory” in history and social studies classes is any indication, this won’t be the last you hear of the leftist assault on math class.
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