‘Math Equity’: Oregon teachers told objective math = white racism

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Feb 24, 2021 | News | Other | International
‘Math Equity’: Oregon teachers told objective math = white racism

By Josh Plank, World Israel News -

The Oregon Department of Education earlier this month published a bulletin encouraging teachers to register for an online training course on “Math Equity,” which informs teachers that many classroom practices once considered normal are actually aspects of white supremacy culture that must be systematically dismantled.

The program is based on Education Trust-West’s toolkit, A Pathway to Equitable Math Instruction Dismantling Racism in Mathematics Instruction.

“Only white people can be racist in our society, because only white people as a group have that power,” says the Dismantling Racism 2016 Workbook, which is heavily referenced in the toolkit.

The Dismantling Racism 2016 Workbook contains a list of characteristics of white supremacy culture that are utilized in the Pathway to Equitable Math Instruction toolkit. The list includes traits such as individualism, objectivity, perfectionism, paternalism, power hoarding, and worship of the written word.

According to the toolkit, many common classroom practices are actually white supremacy. For example, “requiring students to raise their hand before speaking can reinforce paternalism and power hoarding.”

The toolkit says that teaching math in a linear fashion and teaching skills sequentially also promote white supremacy culture.

“While some mathematical skills and concepts build off each other, the forced construct of linear teaching reinforces objectivity,” the toolkit says.

The practice of giving grades is also racist. “Grades are traditionally indicative of what students can’t do rather than what they can do, reinforcing perfectionism,” it says.

The toolkit says that things as simple as getting the right answer are also a symptom of white supremacy culture.

“The concept of mathematics being purely objective is unequivocally false, and teaching it is even much less so. Upholding the idea that there are always right and wrong answers perpetuate objectivity as well as fear of open conflict,” it says.

The toolkit says, “Teachers often treat mistakes as problems by equating them with wrongness,” and that this “reinforces the ideas of perfectionism (that students shouldn’t make mistakes) and paternalism (teachers or other experts can and should correct mistakes).”

While the toolkit acknowledges that many teachers ask students to show their work in order to know what students are thinking, this too is white supremacy.

“Requiring students to show their work reinforces worship of the written word as well as paternalism,” the toolkit says.

The toolkit says that the white supremacy characteristic of individualism is reinforced in the classroom when independent practice is valued over teamwork.

“This does not give value to collectivism and community understanding, and fosters conditions for competition and individual success,” it says.

The toolkit says that placing an emphasis on “real world” math “can result in using mathematics to uphold capitalist and imperialist ways of being and understandings of the world.”

In keeping with this negative view of capitalism, teachers are encouraged to “limit or eliminate references to money, especially when transactional.”


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