Having had four kids go through school I have read a lot of school reports and attended many parent-teacher evenings. I only ever paid attention to two subjects: English and Mathematics.
Turns out I’m obviously a white supremacist.
This will be the result if a proposed mathematics curriculum framework, which would guide K-12 instruction in the Golden State’s public schools, is approved by California’s Instructional Quality Commission in meetings this week and in August and ratified by the state board of education later this year.
The framework recommends eight times that teachers use a troubling document, “A Pathway to Equitable Math Instruction: Dismantling Racism in Mathematics Instruction.” This manual claims that teachers addressing students’ mistakes forthrightly is a form of white supremacy. It sets forth indicators of “white supremacy culture in the mathematics classroom,” including a focus on “getting the right answer,” teaching math in a “linear fashion,” requiring students to “show their work” and grading them on demonstrated knowledge of the subject matter. “The concept of mathematics being purely objective is unequivocally false,” the manual explains. “Upholding the idea that there are always right and wrong answers perpetuates ‘objectivity.’ ” Apparently, that’s also racist.
As it turns out, I read about an interesting conspiracy theory that Matt Yglesias was proposing.
In my more conspiratorial moments, I wonder if it’s not a psyop devised by some modern-day version of COINTELPRO to try to destroy progressive politics in the United States by making it impossible to run effective organizations.
Okay – so I had to google COINTELPRO. But yes – there are some idea that are so dumb – SO DUMB – that you cannot but imagine that they are dreamt up by malicious actors trying to discredit some or other worthy cause.
The worthy cause here is that as many kids as possible should do maths for as long as possible.
Okay – so how does Matt Yglesias explain what is happening:
Debating abstractions is difficult and frustrating, and the discourse about “wokeness” and “cancel culture” has become a snakepit of semantic debates, bad-faith actors, and people of goodwill talking past each other.
So I want to talk instead about one specific document, not because I think it’s the most important document in the world, but because I don’t really see anyone who I read and respect talking about it even though I’ve seen it arise multiple times in real life.
I’m talking about “The Characteristics of White Supremacy Culture” by Tema Okun, which I first heard of this year from the leader of a progressive nonprofit group whose mission I strongly support. He told me that some people on the staff had started wielding this document in internal disputes and it was causing big headaches. Once I had that on my radar, I heard about it from a couple of other nonprofit workers. And I saw it come up at the Parent Teacher Association for my kid’s school.
If you tell teachers and principals that having a sense of urgency about teaching kids to read is a form of white supremacy, then that is going to hurt kids’ learning. And if young people entering the progressive nonprofit sector believe that any effort to construct disciplined, hierarchical organizations is a form of white supremacy, then they are not going to accomplish anything.
Read the whole of Yglesias’ piece – it is hard to summarise in a few quotes.
Bottom line – this stuff is irresponsible and will undermine education as a driver of social progress.