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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Math is dehumanizing, says ‘justice’ course 

Black female mathematicians helped put a man on the moon.

Teaching Social Justice Through Secondary Mathematics, an  EdX course designed by Teach for America, doesn’t just give middle-school teachers ideas for  lesson plans, such as “Race and Imprisonment Rates in the United States,” reports Campus Reform.

The six-week online course tells teachers that math is a “dehumanizing tool” of oppression that’s been used to “trick indigenous peoples out of land and property.”

Even worse, teachers are told that logic, algorithms and such are a “western” thing.

“In western mathematics, our ways of knowing include formalized reasoning or proof, decontextualization, and algorithmic thinking, leaving little room for those having non-western mathematical skills and thinking processes.”

I guess that means it’s not a problem if black and Latino students can’t add, multiply or learn algebra or geometry: They have other ways of . . . something. (And yet Asian kids can learn “western” math.)

Comments on the site are sarcastic:

 — This course helped me prepare students to tackle real world issues such as how to disassemble the Patriarchy, and to stop the Cis White Male Scum from continuing to wave its wrinkly man parts all over the less fortunate. A++ — Do you still think that 2+2=4? This is a social construct created by the Patriarchy. — Who knew secondary mathematics were so racist and sexist? Thank you for opening my eyes to the patriarchal and homophobic patterns that exist in trigonometry.  — This course, like, totally opened my eyes. I had no idea that the binary system is so oppressive and, like, implies that there are only two genders, which everybody knows is, like, totally wrong and hurtful. — I had no idea how heteronormative conic sections were until I started this course. Now I’m smashing the cis-mathematical patriarchy with intersectional matrices, feminist logarithms, AND I’m interrogating the dominant discourse of quadratics with much more inclusive solution methods! My students still don’t know their times tables, but they ALL want to be community organizers now! Thank you!

It makes sense to teach students to use math to analyze issues they’re studying in history and science classes. Surely, this is common, right?

I’d like to see middle schoolers analyze the link between education and earnings: What’s the cost and payoff of a welding certificate, a two-year nursing degree and a bachelor’s degree in engineering, accounting, sociology or women’s studies? They could analyze the grim statistics for dropping out of high school and teen parenting.

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