Yesterday I directed your attention to the new Gates-Foundation-funded booklet on how to “teach” mathematics in an anti-racist way. I put “teach mathematics” in quotes, because the book doesn’t tell you how to get kids to be proficient in doing math. Instead, it is a Trojan Horse to sneak Critical Race Theory into the classroom, and in fact is detrimental to teaching math by urging the elimination of practices, like having students show their work, that help foster math proficiency. I urge you to look over the pamphlet yourself to see how insidious and invidious it is (click on the screenshot; access and a pdf are free):
Over at Bari Weiss’s Substack site, “Common sense,” Bari’s given the stage to Princeton math professor Segiu Klainerman to write a guest post, which you can read by clicking below (remember to subscribe to Weiss’s site if you like her writing).
Actually, the picture above of a student raising her hand shows what the pamphlet sees as a paternalistic (read: racist) classroom behavior, for reasons delineated on page 75 of the booklet:
Klainerman, in fact, found math, and its universality among cultures, as a way to escape the totalitarianism of his native Romania, and is appalled at any notion that different cultures or races have different styles of learning or doing math:
The woke ideology, on the other hand, treats both science and mathematics as social constructs and condemns the way they are practiced, in research and teaching, as manifestations of white supremacy, euro-centrism, and post-colonialism.
Take for example the recent educational program called “a pathway to equitable math instruction.” The program is backed financially by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; it counts among its partners the Lawrence Hall of Science at UC Berkeley, the California Math project, the Association of California School Administrators, and the Los Angeles County Office of Education, among others; and it was recently sent to Oregon teachers by the state’s Department of Education.
The program argues that “white supremacy culture shows up in the classroom when the focus is on getting the ‘right’ answer” or when students are required to show their work, while stipulating that the very “concept of mathematics being purely objective is unequivocally false”. The main goal of the program is “to dismantle racism in mathematics instruction” with the expressly political aim of engaging “the sociopolitical turn in all aspects of education, including mathematics.”
In the past, I would have said that such statements should be ignored as too radical and absurd to merit refutation. But recent trends across the country suggest that we no longer have that luxury.
So let me state the following for the record: Nothing in the history and current practice of mathematics justifies the notion that it is in any way different or dependent on the particular race or ethnic group engaged in it.
Klainerman is clearly mad as hell and isn’t going to take it any more:
Schools throughout the world teach the same basic body of mathematics. They differ only by the methodology and intensity with which they instruct students.
It is precisely this universality of math — together with the extraordinary ability of American universities to reward hard work and talent — that allowed me, and so many other young scientists and mathematicians, to come to this country and achieve success beyond our wildest dreams.
The idea that focusing on getting the “right answer” is now considered among some self-described progressives a form of bias or racism is offensive and extraordinarily dangerous. The entire study of mathematics is based on clearly formulated definitions and statements of fact. If this were not so, bridges would collapse, planes would fall from the sky, and bank transactions would be impossible.
The ability of mathematics to provide right answers to well-formulated problems is not something specific to one culture or another; it is really the essence of mathematics. To claim otherwise is to argue that somehow the math taught in places like Iran, China, India or Nigeria is not genuinely theirs but borrowed or forged from “white supremacy culture.” It is hard to imagine a more ignorant and offensive statement.
Finally, and most importantly, the woke approach to mathematics is particularly poisonous to those it pretends to want to help. Let’s start with the reasonable assumption that mathematical talent is equally distributed at birth to children from all socio-economic backgrounds, independent of ethnicity, sex and race. Those born in poor, uneducated families have clear educational disadvantages relative to others. But mathematics can act as a powerful equalizer. Through its set of well-defined, culturally unbiased, unambiguous set of rules, mathematics gives smart kids the potential to be, at least in this respect, on equal footing with all others. They can stand out by simply finding the right answers to questions with objective results.
There is no such thing as “white” mathematics. There is no reason to assume, as the activists do, that minority kids are not capable of mathematics or of finding the “right answers.” And there can be no justification for, in the name of “equity” or anything else, depriving students of the rigorous education that they need to succeed. The real antiracists will stand up and oppose this nonsense.
This kind of math is coming to a school near you, whether you live in California, Oregon, or other areas with Woke schools. And, as Klainerman notes, this kind of teaching is not only a form of anti-black racism, but will hold back not just black kids, but any kid subject to it. It’s the new ways of teaching themselves, coupled with the assumption that black children simply cannot do math the way it’s taught now, that are paternalistic. You do not take a math class and turn it into a social justice class. But that is precisely what this book—as well as Bill and Melinda Gates—are recommending.
The dismantling of meritocracy, a misguided way of obviating the achievement gap between races, will, in the end, make everybody dumber. By all means let us have affirmative action, but let’s not eliminate every way to assess the achievements of students. (This is what’s behind the unstoppable elimination of standardized tests for college and grad-school admission.) We do students no favors by assuming that every student’s potential in any area is exactly the same as every other’s, which is what Ibram Kendi asserts in his book How to be an Antiracist. Can’t do math? Well, you must excel in some other area, like “eagerness to learn.”
Achievement gaps are real, but rather than use sneaky ways to obviate them, or pretend they don’t exist, why can’t we use the old adage: “a rising tide lifts all boats”? And that tide, in my view, should be a huge American investment in fostering equal opportunity, beginning at birth. That requires substantial investment in minority communities, which I guess you can see as a form of reparations. As I’ve said repeatedly, that will be hard, time-consuming, and expensive. It’s not a quick fix, but it’s the only way to create true equality.