Do you excel in math? You're racist!
Where do you get off! Wipe that smug condescending expression off your space! So what if you know how to solve a quadratic equation? Not impressed.
In fact, linear algebra is simply a weapon of oppression you vicious bastard.
California’s Weapons of Math Destruction
The state’s new teaching framework tries to ‘combat inequities’ and pushes ‘social justice work.’
By Faith Bottum, WSJ
Aug. 18, 2023 5:38 pm ET
The California State Board of Education issued on July 12 a new framework for teaching math based on what it calls “updated principles of focus, coherence, and rigor.” The word “updated” is certainly accurate. Not so much “principles,” “focus,” “coherence” or “rigor.” California’s new approach to math is as unfair as it is unserious.
The framework is voluntary, but it will heavily influence school districts and teachers around the Golden State. Developed over the past four years, it runs nearly 1,000 pages. Among the titles of its 14 chapters are “Teaching for Equity and Engagement,” “Structuring School Experiences for Equity and Engagement” and “Supporting Educators in Offering Equitable and Engaging Mathematics Instruction.” The guidelines demand that math teachers be “committed to social justice work” to “equip students with a toolkit and mindset to identify and combat inequities with mathematics”—not with the ability to do math. Far more important is teaching students that “mathematics plays a role in the power structures and privileges that exist within our society.”
California’s education bureaucrats are seeking to reinvent math as a grievance study. “Big ideas are central to the learning of mathematics,” the framework insists, but the only big idea the document promotes is that unequal outcomes in math performance are proof of a racist society.
To achieve equal outcomes, the framework favors the elimination of “tracking,” by which it means the practice of identifying students with the potential to do well. This supposedly damages the mental health of low-achieving students. The problem is that some students simply are better at math than others. To close the gap, the authors of the new framework have decided essentially to eliminate calculus—and to hold talented students back.
The framework recommends that Algebra I not be taught in middle school, which would force the course to be taught in high school. But if the students all take algebra as freshmen, there won’t be time to fit calculus into a four-year high-school program. And that’s the point: The gap between the best and worst math students will become less visible.
As written, the framework appears to violate the California Mathematics Placement Act of 2015, which requires proper courses for advanced students. A petition signed by roughly 6,000 parents and other concerned citizens may have spurred the drafters of the framework to add an amendment that reads, “Students may take Algebra 1 or Mathematics 1 in middle school.” But the completed document still pushes students not to take algebra in middle school. Instead, the framework recommends investigating whether the traditional five-year progression—Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, Precalculus (including trigonometry) and Calculus—could be shortened so students would still be able to take calculus during senior year. As it stands now, students must either double up or enroll in a summer course to be able to take calculus—or go to a private school, which students from underprivileged backgrounds can’t afford to do.
A growing opposition from college professors should embarrass the Board of Education. More than 400 professors were incensed by a proposed data-science course as a math track that students might follow instead of Algebra II. “For students to be prepared for STEM and other quantitative majors in 4-year colleges . . . learning Algebra II in high school is essential,” they wrote in an open letter. “This cannot be replaced with a high-school statistics or data-science course, due to the cumulative nature of mathematics.”
Brian Conrad, a mathematics professor at Stanford, has created a website to debunk the framework. He writes that the California framework “selectively cites research to make points it wants to make,” and that it “contains false or misleading descriptions of many citations from the literature in neuroscience, acceleration, de-tracking, assessments, and more.” He gets so worked up that he calls a version of chapters 6 and 7 (which respectively cover kindergarten through fifth grade and sixth through eighth grades) an “embarrassment to professionalism.”
The jargon- and acronym-laden California framework, Mr. Conrad says, “promotes a cartoon view” of how students acquire “reliable mathematical skills.” It is equivalent, he says, to supporting that children need not “learn how to spell because there are spell-checkers and spelling is not part of analytical thinking.” The five-member writing team, supervised by a 20-member oversight team, didn’t collaborate with any recognized STEM experts in industry about what training graduates will need in the workplace, Mr. Conrad says.
“Those who claim to be champions of equity should put more effort and resources into helping all students to achieve real success in learning mathematics,” Mr. Conrad says, “rather than using illegal artificial barriers, misrepresented data and citations, or fake validations to create false optics of success.” California should stop trying to turn math into a social-science course.