Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Is Algebra Racist?

You would think that mathematics did not discriminate on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion or ethnicity. You would be wrong. A professor of math education has now written a book in which she declares that geometry and algebra are functions of white privilege and that if non-white students have difficulties doing them we should not hold it against them.

If this sounds too stupid to be true, that's because it is. At the least, it explains why Asian students outperform all others in math.

Conclusion:  the dumbing down of American education proceeds apace.

Here is the story, from the Campus Reform (via Maggie’s Farm):

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."

Math also helps actively perpetuate white privilege too, since the way our economy places a premium on math skills gives math a form of “unearned privilege” for math professors, who are disproportionately white.

“Are we really that smart just because we do mathematics?” she asks, further wondering why math professors get more research grants than “social studies or English” professors.

Further, she also worries that evaluations of math skills can perpetuate discrimination against minorities, especially if they do worse than their white counterparts.

“If one is not viewed as mathematical, there will always be a sense of inferiority that can be summoned,” she says, adding that there are so many minorities who “have experienced microaggressions from participating in math classrooms… [where people are] judged by whether they can reason abstractly.”

You might ask yourself how people like this get jobs as professors teaching how to teach mathematics. 

Keep in mind these are the people who gave us Common Core math. When guilt-ridden billionaires decide to see how much extra added damage they can do to their inferiors they o conjure a new way of teaching different subjects, like math. Since they do not know anything about the way mathematics should be taught they turn to experts, to the elites who study the art of teaching. With enough political will these standards are imposed on many of America’s children.

One is happy to recall the judgment of world class mathematician, Marina Ratner, late professor at University of California at Berkeley:

 I also read that the Common Core offers "fewer standards" but "deeper" and "more rigorous" understanding of math. That there were "fewer standards" became obvious when I saw that they were vastly inferior to the old California standards in rigor, depth and the scope of topics. Many topics—for instance, calculus and pre-calculus, about half of algebra II and parts of geometry—were taken out and many were moved to higher grades.

As a result, the Common Core standards were several years behind the old standards, especially in higher grades. It became clear that the new standards represent lower expectations and that students taught in the way that these standards require would have little chance of being admitted to even an average college and would certainly struggle if they did get in.

Dumbed down, anyone? Ratner continued:

It became clear to me that the Common Core's "deeper" and "more rigorous" standards mean replacing math with some kind of illustrative counting saturated with pictures, diagrams and elaborate word problems. Simple concepts are made artificially intricate and complex with the pretense of being deeper—while the actual content taught was primitive.
And also:

Yet the most astounding statement I have read is the claim that Common Core standards are "internationally benchmarked." They are not. The Common Core fails any comparison with the standards of high-achieving countries, just as they fail compared to the old California standards. They are lower in the total scope of learned material, in the depth and rigor of the treatment of mathematical subjects, and in the delayed and often inconsistent and incoherent introductions of mathematical concepts and skills.

Well, at least the children who fall behind will not feel badly. 


trigger warning said...

Thank you for not calling Guiterrez a "math professor", a description I have seen plastered all over the internet. She is typical of the ed faculty in university schools of education all over America; blithering, poorly educated idiots, the lot. She has no core knowledge of mathematics, as established by her bio. Her idiocy is exceeded only by the Australian "professor" who claims boys are better at physics because they can play pissing games, thereby acquiring better intuitive grasp of trajectories.

Sam L. said...

Feeling badly is a highly undesirable outcome, and improved math skills a highly unlikely outcome.

Ares Olympus said...

I'll happily note that my state of Minnesota never adopted the Common Core Mathematics standard, although that's not proof we don't have SJW's doing their own mischief here.
Minnesota did not adopt Common Core math standards, because state standards written before the development of the national standards are not up for revision until later this year. Essentially, Minnesota has been ahead of the game on standards development, and it has come up with its own rigorous guidelines and requirements in recent years. Those policies are in line with Common Core and are aligned with college and career expectations.

As to racist mathematics, it does sound completely irrational. Mathematics is one of the rare fields where subjectivity does not freely reign, and where a student has a chance to correct a teacher when the teacher makes mistakes.

It might be more fair to argue mathematics, especially higher math, is sexist, and Guiterrez would seem to demonstrate an excellent reason why it should remain sexist.

OTOH, we can be glad for movies like "Hidden Figures" shows women with initiative and a willingness to follow logic and reason, can show up many males, and don't have to back don't just because it hurts men's feelings.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Blithering idiot. Probably a “diversity” hire for the Illini, demonstrating their “commitment to inclusion.” That’s what you get with this kind of thing. GutiĆ©rrez should be grateful for mathematics every time she crosses a bridge or does... much of anything. We’re told we’re all equal in human capacity. It would be more interesting for Gutierrez to dedicate her work toward what keeps browns from high achievement in mathematics. Then she would stop blaming it on some “privileged” white people who actually learn the body of work necessary to command the economic benefit. I’m sure she’s treating this like any other “disparate impact” study, which highlights the hogwash of the entire theory.

sestamibi said...

Perhaps the Simpsons got it right: