Seattle’s public school district plans to introduce ethnic studies to all disciplines taught to K12 students. The district’s proposed Math Ethnic Studies Framework seeks to “rehumanize math” and engage students from ethnic minorities. Yet the postmodern approach in the document threatens to undermine the truth of math by pairing it with Western “oppression” and encouraging students to ask “What is Right? Says Who?”
The framework makes unwarranted and unnecessary assumptions about mathematics.
For instance, the document sets forth four themes, the first of which claims that "mathematical theory and application is rooted in the ancient histories of people and empires of color " (emphasis original). If the curriculum is followed rightly, students will be able to “create counter narratives about the origins of mathematical knowledge” and “see the mathematical value in making mistakes both as individuals and as a community.”
In other words, this “educational” document emphasizes getting minority students to “identify” with math over teaching them mathematical truths. Not only does the framework prioritize teaching students the “value in making mistakes” but it also presents as an essential question “What does it mean to do math?” and the related questions, “How important is it to be Right? What is Right? Says Who?”
There is indeed value in making mistakes — but in order to take a key lesson from mistakes, students must understand that they are mistakes . The postmodern approach of this curriculum — getting students to deconstruct what it means to be right and getting them to emphasize ethnic identity over the basic truths of math — is detrimental to that effort.
As for the claim that math is “rooted in the ancient histories of people and empires of color,” that is partially true. Mathematics has developed to a limited degree in all human cultures, and both Indian and Arabic contributions to mathematics are important to understand. But Western thinkers like the Ancient Greek pioneer Pythagoras were also fundamental to math. The point of math is not to parse which ethnic group made which discovery but to incorporate the accumulated knowledge and apply it.
The most developed system of mathematics is Western, and nonWesterners would do well to learn from and then build on Western mathematics, rather than attempting to reject Western innovations in search of a “pure math” untainted by the “oppression” and “appropriation” of the West. Yet this Seattle framework attempts to erase or demonize the centuries of Western progress in math.
The framework’s second theme teaches that “Power and oppression, as defined by ethnic studies, are the ways in which individuals and groups define mathematical knowledge so as to see ‘Western’ mathematics as the only legitimate expression of mathematical identity and intelligence. This definition of legitimacy is then used to disenfranchise people and communities of color. This erases the historical contributions of people and communities of color.”
Under a curriculum developed from this framework, students will be able to “analyze the ways in which ancient mathematical knowledge has been appropriated by Western culture.” They will also be able to “identify how math has been and continues to be used to oppress and marginalize people and communities of color,” and to “critique systems of power that deny access to mathematical knowledge to people and communities of color.”
The framework argues that students should be taught “the inherent inequities of the standardized testing system used to oppress and marginalize people and communities of color.” Standardized testing is rightly controversial, but Seattle Public Schools is wrong to suggest it is somehow proven or obvious that standardized testing has “inherent inequities” that are “used to oppress and marginalize” minorities. This sweeping indictment on all math standardized tests is false and unfair.
Yet the “oppression” education goals do not stop with demonizing standardized tests. According to the framework, students will be able to “explain how math has been used to exploit natural resources” — ostensibly contributing to climate change — and they will be able to “explain how math dictates economic oppression.”
While it is true that businesses, governments, and individuals use math to calculate how to use natural resources — including pumping gas into a tank — it is unfair to indict mathematics itself as connected with the abuse of natural resources. It is also unfair to indict math for “economic oppression,” as mathematics is a neutral tool that businesses and government can use to pay employees, tax citizens, distribute handouts, and more — in fair or unfair ways. Yes, math has been used in the service of oppression, but it has also been used in the service of liberation.
In fact, the third theme acknowledges as much. “The history of resistance and liberation, as defined by ethnic studies, is the stories, places, and people who helped liberate people and communities of color using math, engineering, and technology. Access to mathematical knowledge itself is an act of liberation,” the document states.
Yet mathematical knowledge is only a tool of liberation if it is knowledge rather than twisted propaganda. Only accurate mathematics can empower people to understand technology and other key aspects of the world around us. So far as the deconstruction narrative distracts students from pursuing truth in mathematics, it actually undermines the goal of empowering students of color.
The Seattle Public Schools likely has the best of intentions with this overtly political and arguably dangerous math curriculum. The district even put in some interesting tidbits about the “beauty” of math that really should interest students in mathematics.
At the end of the day, however, mathematics is about truth and accurate thinking, not about race or ethnicity. Emphasizing ethnicity and a narrative of “oppression” and “liberation” in math is wrongheaded and selfdefeating.
The narrative of Western oppression poses a serious threat to various subjects in education. For instance, a student in South Africa rejected science in favor of African “black magic.”
Western history is complicated. While European empires did enslave and mistreat indigenous peoples, they also introduced superior forms of math, science, weaponry, medicine, and more. The indigenous peoples were not themselves guiltless, either. Many had long practiced human sacrifice, slavery, and other detestable practices.
The constant haranguing of “woke” scholars seeking to demonize the Western ingenuity behind modern prosperity is shrill and ultimately a threat to that very prosperity. Let students study math, and don’t let math history become dominated by social justice attempts to erase the efforts of the West. It matters far more whether or not students can do basic arithmetic than whether or not they can spout social justice slogans about Western “oppression.”
Leftist Seattle Plans to Teach Kids That Math Is Racist
Mathematics is about the only class  course  study, that cannot be adulterated, diluted, or cherry picked. 2+2= 4. Been that way since day one. That holds true regardless of what fucking color you are. How could it be racist? Although math, geometry, algebra, etc. etc. always came easy to me, like a reflex; so I guess if I can understand it, and someone who is not white cannot, I guess, according to Liberal 101, that makes me a racist.
Apparently now it can Jim. It’s too hard so it must be racist.
It can also equal 5…
for large enough values of 2.
Don’t go there; isn’t it difficult enough for people of color to understand that 2+2 =4 ?        2+2= 5; that sounds like secret double racism if you ask me.
This is a gross distortion from the SJW movement. Back children score lower on standardized math = math is racist. This is on deeper thought the sort f thing that would give David Duke a woody. Tell Black kids that their poor performance at math is the result of slavery and Jim Calculus racism. The result will be self pity, and even more failure but the Ed. establishment will hi five their flabby White Bwaana arms because the results will be hidden, or the system will eschew testing altogether.
If Blacks in Seattle were looking for a reason to riot this would be it.
Where I taught we had a Black subgroup that scored lower on Math and Language Arts than the Special Ed. subgroup. One woman (Black) volunteered to create a ‘Black Student Union’. No BLM nonsense, or any other self pitying race card fanning. Rules were clear, and firm  min. 2.0; no behavioral referrals; no truancy; no ‘drooping’ (pants); no foul language at meetings. Two things happened:

The club became the largest on campus, with the best behaved kids

The next year the scores on the aforementioned tests rose 46 points (on a 1000 pt. scale) for the subgroup, and rose again the year after.
The woman who ran the club put up with zero bullshit from the kids; the kids knew and most importantly  loved it, and her. This notion that Black kids can’t do math without some phony esteem building foolishness is every bit as racist as the worst imaginings of a Klansman.
Math. Oppressing stupid people since its inception.
Jeeze.
You just have to put in terms people can relate to:
Addition:
“If you have two bullets in one hand and two bullets in your gun, how many total bullets do you have?”
Multiplication:
“If you are 12 years of age and can produce a child every ten months, how many children will you have when you are 15?”
Division:
“If your EBT card gives you $200.00 a month for food, how much can you spend per day on food?”
Thank the Lord we have Affirmative Action. No math needed; diplomas by mail. In fact, little or no thinking necessary.  This is from an article by Fred Reed on Affirmative Action. TRUE STORY. Gabe comes home from school crying. His parents put a recorder in the kid’s backpack. Ms Williams is his teacher. She has a college degree & teaching credentials,
Gabe: “I don’t know what to do on this.”
Ms. Williams: “Well, you’d better find out. It’s not hard. Nobody else didn’t have to ask no questions bout it. You know what to do, you just want somebody to just sit there and pet you about it, but I ain’t gonna do it. You know how to go in that lunch room and tear that food up every day. Ain’t nothing hard bout that sheet.”
Following this Miltonian eructation, we have:
Ms. Williams: “No, do your work. She ain’t goin to be sittin up in here wanting somebody to help her every time she, cause she don’t wanna apply herself to her work. You know how to go in that cafeteria and enjoy that lunch and breakfast every morning.”
Then, waxing ever more lyrical, even Ciceronian,
Ms. Williams: “Where this go?”
Child: “I colored that yesterday.”
Ms. Williams: “It shouldn’t of got changed at all, that ain’t nothing to be proud of.”
Ms. Williams clearly is barely literate, and should be in the first grade instead of teaching it. Gabe speaks better English than she does. In a country not sliding into degradation, a restraining order would keep her from coming within a hundred yards of a school.
Why do we permit this sort of thing? Ms. Williams is black. The story carefully doesn’t say so, but it doesn’t have to. Only the black uneducated speak as she does.
The proper response from parents would be fury. The discovery that this creature is attempting to turn their children into the equivalent of farm animals ought to result in the lynching of the school board of Mississippi. A civilized people with backbone will not allow their their offspring to be made into gurbling iPodded peasants. But we are not such a civilization.
Why is it happening? “Affirmative action.” Since Ms. Williams does not speak the language of the country, the only possible reason for hiring her is that she is black. She is not just slightly unqualified, allowing an expectation that she might catch up—this being the founding fantasy of “affirmative action”—but absolutely unqualified.
The pattern repeats endlessly. Today I have read that the Chicago police contemplate eliminating their entrance examination on the grounds that not enough blacks pass it. Firemen of my acquaintance tell of women too weak to handle a hose, of female paramedics who can’t carry a stretcher. While I was on the police beat at the Washington Times, I encountered a tiny policewoman who never had to drive the paddy wagon because her feet didn’t reach the pedals.
On intercity buses there once were signs, and probably still are, saying, “Seating is without regard to race, creed, color, sex, or national origin.” Today everything seems to be with regard to nothing else. Anything, everything, must be done to keep the affirmativeaction classes happy.  This Affirmative Action post probably needs it’s own slot.
This covers the above perfectly. THIS IS AFFIRMATIVE ACTION 
Ms. Williams clearly is barely literate, and should be in the first grade instead of teaching it. Gabe speaks better English than she does. In a country not sliding into degradation, a restraining order would keep her from coming within a hundred yards of a school.
Why do we permit this sort of thing? Ms. Williams is black. The story carefully doesn’t say so, but it doesn’t have to. Only the black uneducated speak as she does.
The proper response from parents would be fury. The discovery that this creature is attempting to turn their children into the equivalent of farm animals ought to result in the lynching of the school board of Mississippi. A civilized people with backbone will not allow their their offspring to be made into gurbling iPodded peasants. But we are not such a civilization.
I attended parochial schools. Say what you will, but I received a superb education. 5th & 6th grade; and reading Plato, Tolstoy, Chekov. I doubt Ms Williams ever heard of them.
In spite of the humorous examples you gave, that principle is extremely valid – for any kid. How often do you hear someone say, “When will I ever use this in real life???”
My 8yearold grandson was trying to understand simple division. (Which hadn’t yet been introduced in his 2nd grade classes.) I put it in terms of football, for which he was an avid fan. If a team is behind by 20 points, how many touchdowns will they need to score to take the lead? That was easy for him, because it was in terms he could relate to. And once he understood the concept, the rest was easy.
Next I actually introduced twovariable algebra by asking the question in terms of touchdowns and field goals. Again, easy to grasp, because it was in terms he cared about.
When will I use this? Everyone will use it, often without even knowing it. Helping them see when they will use it makes them care about the concepts, and also helps them grasp the concepts.
Yep. Had a discussion about this the other day.
We do math all of the time without having to analyze it. IMO it is the slowing down of the process and putting in on paper that is difficult.
How do we know when to pull out into traffic, etc.
Putting in terms children can relate to and understand is a much better way of teaching and getting them interested.
And thank you for getting my sense of humor.
Being able to produce a child every 10 months, how many children will it take to qualify for welfare , food stamps , public housing and Medicaid when 18 years old.