Some depraved souls at the California Department of Education insist that its schools reduce every area, including mathematics, to the study of race. How race plays a determinative role in the study of mathematics is baffling. Nonetheless, the thirteen-year effort to insert race into the California Mathematics Framework continues.
A Tale of Woe
The saga began in 2010 when the California Common Core State Standards: Mathematics (CA CCSSM) were drafted. These were updated in 2013.
The Standards’ introduction began optimistically.
”The CA CCSSM are designed to be robust, linked within and across grades, and relevant to the real world…. With California’s students fully prepared for the future, our students will be positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.”
There is little in the 154-page document that would surprise anyone. The sequence of skills recommended by the CA CCSSM is coherent and logical. A student who learned the required skills would be well suited for college.
Searching for an Answer
There was little, if any, mention of race. However, one basic tenet of “wokedom” was present in abundance. The fault for any failure lies with those in authority. For instance, the above quotation implies that students play no active role. The school “positions” students for future success.
However, this curriculum proved faulty. As the Los Angeles Times noted, “On national tests, California is below the norm compared to other states: An estimated 23% of the state’s students achieve proficiency in math.”
Therefore, over three out of four students miss the mark. In every grade book, 23% is a failing grade.
In the following sentence, the Times offers the liberal talking point.
“There also are wide gaps among groups, with students from more prosperous backgrounds doing better. And white and Asian students have higher test scores than Black and Latino students.”
True to form, the primary reason must be racism.
Racism Without Racists
However, that raises an unanswerable question of who is the racist. Any taint of racism in public education has been anathema for at least sixty years. Today’s students or their parents never had the misfortune of having a genuinely racist teacher. The idea of a secret cabal of math teachers scheming against “Black and Latino students” is simply unbelievable.
Critical race theory provides the answer—so-called structural racism.
Structural racism is difficult to define. The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as “Laws, rules, or official policies in a society that result in and support a continued unfair advantage to some people and unfair or harmful treatment of others based on race.”
Apparently, people perpetuate this evil automatically by obeying the rules of a racist structure. Teachers who never uttered a derogatory word can, nonetheless, spread racism by reflecting the underlying attitudes of the presumably racist public school system. In this mental la-la-land, there is no need to prove racism. The fact that the outcomes for certain minority groups are lower than others is sufficient.
Removing Something That Doesn’t Happen
Thus, in 2019, California decided to eradicate structural racism from mathematics instruction. Those efforts resulted in the state’s publication of A Pathway to Equitable Math Instruction: Dismantling Racism in Mathematics Instruction, published in May 2021. The eighty-three-page Pathway justifies itself in its second sentence.
“The framework for deconstructing racism in mathematics offers essential characteristics of antiracist math educators and critical approaches to dismantling white supremacy in math classrooms by making visible the toxic characteristics of white supremacy culture with respect to math.”
On page seven, readers learn, “White supremacy culture infiltrates math classrooms in everyday teacher actions. Coupled with the beliefs that underlie these actions, they perpetuate educational harm on Black, Latinx, and multilingual students, denying them full access to the world of mathematics.”
Goal number one is “dismantling white supremacy culture in math classrooms.” To facilitate this task, it lists nineteen criteria to help teachers recognize racism in their teaching.
The Wrong Answer
The first of these is telling. “There is a greater focus on getting the “right” answer than understanding concepts and reasoning.”
Not only is this idea not racist, but it also sets up a false dichotomy. There is no difference between “understanding the concepts and reasoning” and using them to calculate the correct answer. Consider a simple calculation: 7 x 8 = 56. The concept behind it is that adding 7 + 7 + 7 + 7 + 7 + 7 + 7 + 7 yields 56. Of course, no one calculates the problem in this longer, more cumbersome form. It is easier and more efficient to memorize the multiplication table, as children of all races did for generations.
Of course, most math premises are far more complicated, but the principle is the same. The students will get the correct answer if the process is applied consistently and the calculations are accurate. Separating the process from the correct answer is futile.
Teaching is an Art, Not a Science
Indeed, students’ understanding of the process is determined by getting the correct answer. If a given answer is incorrect, the student either miscalculated or doesn’t understand the process.
Some students find this frustrating; for others, it is exhilarating. Some pupils are inclined toward mathematics, and others are not. Each person has a God-given set of interests and abilities. The education system cannot grasp this concept. Children are not beakers in a science lab, into which a specific reaction results from mixing the appropriate chemicals.
The educrats treat teaching and learning as sciences. The prescribed teaching method should produce an identical outcome for each student. When it doesn’t, they are baffled. Unable to accept an explanation with a religious basis, they cast about for another. Since the liberal education schools favor a leftist reading of history by turning everything into class struggle, critical race theory presents racism as an explanation.
Unfortunately, there is not enough space here to discuss the other eighteen criteria at a similar length.
Almost a Thousand Pages of Error
California translates the goals of Pathway into classroom experience through the California Mathematics Framework. The entire 983-page document is unreadable. However, the titles of some chapters provide insights into its emphasis. Chapter Two, for instance, is “Teaching for Equity and Engagement.” Chapter nine is titled “Structuring School Experiences for Equity and Engagement.” It is followed by “Supporting Educators in Offering Equitable and Engaging Mathematics Instruction.” Chapter thirteen continues with “Instructional Materials to Support Equitable and Engaging Learning of the California Common Core State Standards for Mathematics.”
Amazingly, the document’s glossary does not define engage, engaging or engagement. However, the definition of equity is eye-opening. “Equity refers to fairness in education rather than sameness. Drawing from Gutierrez (2012), equity includes four dimensions in mathematics education: (1) Access to tangible resources; (2) Participation in quality mathematics classes and success in them; (3) Student identity development in mathematics; and (4) Attention to relations of power.”
However, finding out what “Gutierrez (2012)” meant by those four dimensions is difficult. “Appendix B: Works Cited.” mentions no author by that name. Nor does the glossary define “fairness,” “tangible resources,” “quality mathematics classes,” “student identity development” or “relations of power.”
Despite the high-flown rhetoric, California’s new curriculum stands no chance of success. All of its answers are incorrect because they are based on the wrong premises. Its goals are political, not educational. The Wall Street Journal correctly referred to it as containing “Weapons of Math Destruction.”
Photo Credit: © harunyigit – stock.adobe.com