by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
You don’t need to be a math whiz to understand the value of Jared Pincin’s new Martin Center column.
Following a growing trend in education called critical mathematics, the Seattle Public School system recently released a framework incorporating ethnic studies into their K-12 mathematics curriculum. It has a noble objective: To reduce the disparity in mathematics achievement between white students and students of color by teaching how different cultures have developed and employed mathematics through time.
But instead of equipping students to understand mathematics better so they can succeed, the new framework will leave students less prepared and teaches them a new dangerous lesson: mathematics is a tool of oppression.
At least, we think that is the gist of what Seattle’s new standards are saying. Sometimes, they seem to state concepts we agree with—for example, where they assert that learning math is ultimately empowering. At other points, however, they claim that the accepted way of doing mathematics is tainted by the Western intellectual tradition.
The standards are full of jargon and incomplete thoughts. For example, “student action, as defined by ethnic studies, is fostering a sense of advocacy, empowerment, and action in the students that creates intea rnal motivation to engage in and contribute to their identities as mathematician.” Sometimes the framework has apparent contradictions like when it asks, “How do we derive mathematical truth?” in one section and then in another section, “Who gets to say if an answer is right?”
We think it suffices to say that the last thing students in America need, to distract them from learning what mathematics is truly about, is to inject decidedly non-mathematical, social-agenda-driven content into the curriculum.