The Seattle school district has proposed a controversial framework for K-12 math classes that asks students to debate ethnic-studies questions.
The goal? To “re-humanize mathematics through experiential learning.”
Seattle’s proposal portrays “math” as something that was appropriated by Western culture from people of color and used in systems of power and oppression.
Discussion topics include:
- How has math been used to oppress and marginalize people of color?
- Who really holds the power in a math classroom?
- How has math been used to free people from oppression?
- How do standardized testing systems marginalize people of color?
- How can math be used to promote resistance and liberation?
Seattle’s proposal is part of a nationwide effort to incorporate ethnic studies into other subjects. If all goes according to plan, Seattle’s ethnic studies team will have similar frameworks for all subjects submitted to the board for review by June.
“Seattle is definitely on the forefront with this,” says Robert Q. Berry III, 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.”
Critics argue the addition of progressive assumptions about cultural appropriation will exacerbate racial tension in the classroom and make math more difficult.
“We all want students of color to be included, believe they can learn math, and see themselves as mathematicians,” says a math teacher who preferred to remain anonymous. “But you don’t need to talk about liberation and oppression and how Western mathematics has somehow taken over. It just turns people off and makes the goal of being inclusive that much tougher.”
“Did you realize when you subtracted one number from another that you were disenfranchising people by using Western math?” jokes Seattle radio host Dori Monson.
While it’s important to understand how math affects the real world, Seattle’s proposal is grossly misguided – not to mention the fact that math teachers are not ethnic studies teachers. Somehow, the liberals in Seattle have decided that being a liberal is more important than a basic education.
Editor’s Note: I was thinking this was a Saturday Night Live parody, but it is ACTUALLY REAL!
My head is going to explode.