The Oregon Department of Education is focused on an effort to “dismantle racism in mathematics,” according to a newsletter it sent out to teachers this week. In the missive, the department warned educators that a heavy focus on finding “right” answers in math is a symbol of white supremacy, and it encouraged teachers to take advantage of a “Pathway to Math Equity” course that will soon become available through the state.
According to reports, the course will train teachers to understand that there are many things associated with “white supremacy culture,” including concepts like perfectionism, objectivity, and individualism. The accompanying workbook will explain that teachers must move away from “the belief that there is such a thing as being objective or neutral” if they want to help defeat racism. The toolkit will also encourage teachers to get away from the old ways of looking for a single right answer to a math problem and instead “come up with at least two answers that might solve this problem.”
“Challenge standardized test questions by getting the ‘right’ answer, but justify other answers by unpacking the assumptions that are made in the problem,” the workbook advises.
Teachers are also advised to “identify and challenge the ways that math is used to uphold capitalist, imperialist, and racist views.”
Fox News reports:
Part of the toolkit includes a list of ways “white supremacy culture” allegedly “infiltrates math classrooms.” Those include “the focus is on getting the ‘right’ answer,” students being “required to ‘show their work,’” and other alleged manifestations.
“The concept of mathematics being purely objective is unequivocally false, and teaching it is even much less so,” the document for the “Equitable Math” toolkit reads. “Upholding the idea that there are always right and wrong answers perpetuate objectivity as well as fear of open conflict.”
We have to assume that any student of color who complains that a particular math problem (or grade) made him feel “oppressed” will be given a free pass. What that means for the future of STEM, we can’t imagine. Certainly, the value of a degree in mathematics seems poised to plunge if this kind of thinking begins taking over academia.