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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Getting Rid of Algebra, Part 3–The Empire Strikes Back

Is algebra itself racist because American minorities struggle to learn it?  Probably not, for a number of reasons:

For many decades, educators have viewed algebra as something students need to understand in high school, if not earlier. Now, we have college administrators who think it’s too hard, causing too many of their students to fail and thus preventing them from getting a college degree. And that, of course, means we should get rid of algebra, the chancellor of California’s community college system told NPR this week… I don’t even want to get into the laughable and arguably racist assumption that algebra creates some kind of color barrier ? (sic) and by the way, the Arabs developed it, so it just isn’t so. But what I marvel at is how this interview seems reflects a blind faith in the magical powers of a college degree. In the interest of making sure everyone gets one, we simply stop making them studying things that are challenging and important in life, because it’s the degree itself that is most important.

It’s probably a bad idea to perpetuate the belief that only the anointed few will ever understand math.

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