Here’s what mathematics education professor Rochelle Gutierrez said:
Who gets credit for doing and developing mathematics, and who is seen as part of the mathematical community is generally viewed as White. School mathematics curricula emphasizing terms like Pythagorean theorem and pi perpetuate a perception that mathematics was largely developed by Greeks and other Europeans. Perhaps more importantly, mathematics operates with unearned privilege in society, just like Whiteness.
Given the beyond-astonishing success of mathematics, that it operates as Whiteness can only be a hearty and smiling two thumbs up in favor of Whiteness. If only we could teach everybody to be White, or to operate as Whiteness, then there would be no end to mathematical greatness!
Now, in the old days, before the Great Awokening, mathematics education was to mathematics as crayon drawings of turkeys were to Thanksgiving dinner. It wasn’t math per se, it was, and is, a lucrative sub-profession whose business it is to grant teaching certificates. Without these required certificates teachers aren’t allowed to teach the kiddies how to add and subtract.
In these woke days mathematical education is mathematics. Anything that a credentialed professor, in any field, especially aggrieved an professor, says is mathematics is mathematics. And has to be, since those who can’t operate as Whiteness are having a hard time doing mathematics when math was just plain math. If we keep math as math we’re going to develop massive inequities, disparities, and other bad things.
A blogger named Tian An at the American Mathematical Society, which is their premiere organization, wants to set us straight about what math should be. She first quoted the other lady above. Then she said this.
Last semester, I developed a class called Inequalities: Numbers and Justice, aimed towards non-majors. My students ranged from undergraduate seniors to students in the local high school, with majors ranging from Government to Chinese to Computer Science. It was the second incarnation of a course I had taught years ago, in which we worked through the ideas in Gutstein and Peterso’s Rethinking Mathematics: Teaching Social Justice by the Numbers, which was written at the middle-school level. In Inequalities, my hope was to develop these ideas into a college-level course.
Over the course of the semester, we explored how notions of fairness and equality have been considered from the point of view of mathematics and economics. What ways were these ideas defined, and given the definitions, how can they be measured? We covered topics ranging from the misuses of statistics to gerrymandering to racial capitalism and climate change. In the end, students were able to appreciate the complexities of fairness, the deep inequities that capitalism produces, and questioned the idea that mathematics is politically neutral.
Written at the middle-school level? If Jamal has one taco and Taqueesha has no tacos, is the total number of tacos, which the student must calculate, distributed in a fair and equitable manner?
At least students will question the idea that mathematics is politically neutral. They will instead learn that equations like cos(0) = 1 supports the intersectional theory of gender multiplicities. How? Hey, are you some kind of bigot?
Can mathematics, specifically beyond the K-12 level, be antiracist? Are critical mathematics pedagogy…and “higher” mathematics…necessarily in opposition to each other? Social justice is a popular phrase these days, even in mathematics circles, but what does it mean? In a recent volume, Mathematics for Social Justice: Resources for the College Classroom, editors Gizem Karaali and Lily Khadjavi describe the work as part of a “national movement to include social justice material into mathematics teaching”. While the volume represents an important effort in bringing discussions around race, gender, class, and power into the college mathematics classroom, I am left wanting more.
Love the scare quotes around “higher”! If Equity means anything it means all equations are the same, all theorems are equally deserving of attention.
Kids, especially the ladies, are going to love these changes. No more endless sweating over doing the odd numbers every night as homework. Now they can talk about their feelings instead.
Attempts to shoehorn social justice into mathematics curricula perhaps say more about the political leanings of the teacher than anything else. At the same time, we must be wary of diversity initiatives in mathematics which simply reproduce a different class of scientists that perpetuate structures of domination and oppression, in place of work to dismantle the whiteness which mathematics operates as, and to truly equip students for a world of growing inequality and climate catastrophe. After all, would it have been better if it were nonwhite people who developed the atomic bomb?
It goes on and on and on and on and then on some more like this, each sentence sucking a little more of the soul from real math.
Here’s the thing: Top mathematicians aren’t condemning this kind of nonsense. I saw no comments from any mathematician of note anywhere calling this idiocy out. Either they don’t think it’s worth their bother, or they don’t want to take on the Woke Machine. They figure they’ll survive the ever-encroaching spread of the disease as long as they are quiet.
Best of luck!
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