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Math–It’s Oppressive!

The Seattle public schools have developed a new “ethnic studies” curriculum that tells students that mathematics is a tool of oppression. Sure, some of us thought that back in junior high school, especially when we didn’t get around to doing our homework. But to have this view endorsed by the schools is remarkable. Robby Soave reports at Reason:

The [Seattle public school] district has proposed a new social justice-infused curriculum that would focus on “power and oppression” and “history of resistance and liberation” within the field of mathematics. The curriculum isn’t mandatory, but provides a resource for teachers who want to introduce ethnic studies into the classroom vis a vis math.

Why, exactly, would you introduce “ethnic studies” into mathematics? This is from Education Week:

If adopted, its ideas will be included in existing math classes as part of the district’s broader effort to infuse ethnic studies into all subjects across the K-12 spectrum.

Again: why would a school district do this, unless it is deliberately trying to foment ethnic division? The rot, sadly, is not confined to Seattle:

“Seattle is definitely on the forefront with this,” said Robert Q. Berry III, the president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. “What they’re doing follows the line of work we hope we can move forward as we think about the history of math and who contributes to that, and also about deepening students’ connection with identity and agency.”

Why is it the mission of the public schools to “deepen students’ connection with identity and agency”? If “identity” means ethnic identity, which I understand it does, I would think the public schools should be trying to do the opposite.

Soave points out that the “ethnic studies” curriculum is absurdly left-wing:

The guidance also includes some extremely political, simplistic talking points that might be popular among activist academics but are in reality somewhat dubious. This is verbatim from the proposal: Students will be able to “identify the inherent inequities of the standardized testing system used to oppress and marginalize people and communities of color”…

Let’s stop here. Ability to do math transcends race and other irrelevant factors. Facility at mathematics, earned through many hours of hard labor, has allowed countless Asian-Americans to prosper, to the point where Asian-American incomes are now, on the average, considerably higher than white incomes. Why were all these “people of color” not “oppressed” or “marginalized” by mathematics? Because they did their homework and studied for tests.

…”explain how math has been used to exploit natural resources,” and “explain how math dictates economic oppression.”

Is this some kind of joke? People this foolish shouldn’t be teaching math, or any other subject.

There is not much more to say, except to note that the attack on competence can’t stop with mathematics. If math is oppressive, so are physics, chemistry, biology and every other subject that requires hard study to master objective reality. God help us when our structural engineers are products of an educational system that considers knowledge of mathematics to be a symptom of “oppression.”

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