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Math is white privilege?

There’s a math edu­ca­tion pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­sity of Illi­nois who thinks “math per­pet­u­ates white priv­i­lege,”

On many lev­els, math­e­mat­ics itself oper­ates as White­ness. Who gets credit for doing and devel­op­ing math­e­mat­ics, who is capa­ble in math­e­mat­ics, and who is seen as part of the math­e­mat­i­cal com­mu­nity is gen­er­ally viewed as White,” Gutier­rez argued.

Gutier­rez also wor­ries that alge­bra and geom­e­try per­pet­u­ate priv­i­lege, fret­ting that “cur­ric­ula empha­siz­ing terms like Pythagorean the­o­rem and pi per­pet­u­ate a per­cep­tion that math­e­mat­ics was largely devel­oped by Greeks and other Europeans.”

If she thinks alge­bra and geom­e­try are tough, she’s never strug­gled through calculus.

Sure enough: accord­ing to her fac­ulty pro­file she does not have a degree in math and is not a math teacher. Instead, she has a Ph.D. in “Cur­ricu­lum and Instruction,”

and focuses on equity issues in math­e­mat­ics edu­ca­tion, pay­ing par­tic­u­lar atten­tion to how race, class, and lan­guage affect teach­ing and learning

Ah.

Gutier­rez believes that

Math also helps actively per­pet­u­ate white priv­i­lege too, since the way our econ­omy places a pre­mium on math skills gives math a form of “unearned priv­i­lege” for math pro­fes­sors, who are dis­pro­por­tion­ately white.

Or Chi­nese or Indian, like sev­eral I know.

But I digress.

As a mar­ket­ing and eco­nom­ics major in col­lege, I had to take sev­eral semes­ters of sta­tis­tics and cal­cu­lus. Not being par­tic­u­larly gifted in those dis­ci­plines, I had to knuckle down: Stay focused in class, work through all the prob­lems in the text­books, do all the home­work, and study for every test.

I could blame some­one else for my frus­tra­tion when I didn’t get “A” grades and call it a “microa­gres­sion” (not that the word existed then). The fact is that math is hard. It took hard work.

I have known men with excep­tional faster-​than-​a-​calculator math skills (no, I’ve not yet met women with that skill). The rest of us, regard­less of race, eth­nic ori­gin or sex, have to apply our­selves. That’s why sci­ences are dis­ci­plines

train­ing to act in accor­dance with rules; drill:

It is by no means “unearned priv­i­lege.” Maybe she ought to try it.

Jaime Escalante was very suc­cess­ful teach­ing math to “unteach­able” stu­dents. The stu­dents had to do the work. His work was not only to teach, but to moti­vate. Escalante respected his stu­dents enough to demand that they live up to their potential.

Escalante didn’t believe in polit­i­cally cor­rect excuses.

Rather than take Escalante’s approach, Gutier­rez wants math teach­ers to develop a sense of “polit­i­cal conocimiento,” mix­ing Spang­lish while shift­ing away from “math devel­oped by white peo­ple.” Never mind that qua­dratic equa­tions were devel­oped by the Egyp­tians, and that the Chi­nese were doing cal­cu­lus by the 11th cen­tury B.C. Iden­tity pol­i­tics reigns supreme.

Are we really that smart just because we do math­e­mat­ics?” she asks, fur­ther won­der­ing why math pro­fes­sors get more research grants than “social stud­ies or Eng­lish” professors.

The sim­ple answer is that you can’t BS your way out of math. In a technology-​based world, math skills com­mand a premium.

I mourn for the stu­dents affected by Gutierrez’s mindset.

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on U. S. and Latin Amer­ica at Fausta’s blog

There’s a math education professor at the University of Illinois who thinks “math perpetuates white privilege,”

“On many levels, mathematics itself operates as Whiteness. Who gets credit for doing and developing mathematics, who is capable in mathematics, and who is seen as part of the mathematical community is generally viewed as White,” Gutierrez argued.

Gutierrez also worries that algebra and geometry perpetuate privilege, fretting that “curricula emphasizing terms like Pythagorean theorem and pi perpetuate a perception that mathematics was largely developed by Greeks and other Europeans.”

If she thinks algebra and geometry are tough, she’s never struggled through calculus.

Sure enough: according to her faculty profile she does not have a degree in math and is not a math teacher. Instead, she has a Ph.D. in “Curriculum and Instruction,”

and focuses on equity issues in mathematics education, paying particular attention to how race, class, and language affect teaching and learning

Ah.

Gutierrez believes that

Math also helps actively perpetuate white privilege too, since the way our economy places a premium on math skills gives math a form of “unearned privilege” for math professors, who are disproportionately white.

Or Chinese or Indian, like several I know.

But I digress.

As a marketing and economics major in college, I had to take several semesters of statistics and calculus. Not being particularly gifted in those disciplines, I had to knuckle down: Stay focused in class, work through all the problems in the textbooks, do all the homework, and study for every test.

I could blame someone else for my frustration when I didn’t get “A” grades  and call it a “microagression” (not that the word existed then). The fact is that math is hard. It took hard work.

I have known men with exceptional faster-than-a-calculator math skills (no, I’ve not yet met women with that skill). The rest of us, regardless of race, ethnic origin or sex, have to apply ourselves. That’s why sciences are disciplines

training to act in accordance with rules; drill:

It is by no means “unearned privilege.” Maybe she ought to try it.

Jaime Escalante was very successful teaching math to “unteachable” students. The students had to do the work. His work was not only to teach, but to motivate. Escalante respected his students enough to demand that they live up to their potential.

Escalante didn’t believe in politically correct excuses.

Rather than take Escalante’s approach, Gutierrez wants math teachers to develop a sense of “political conocimiento,” mixing Spanglish while shifting away from “math developed by white people.” Never mind that quadratic equations were developed by the Egyptians, and that the Chinese were doing calculus by the 11th century B.C. Identity politics reigns supreme.

“Are we really that smart just because we do mathematics?” she asks, further wondering why math professors get more research grants than “social studies or English” professors.

The simple answer is that you can’t BS your way out of math. In a technology-based world, math skills command a premium.

I mourn for the students affected by Gutierrez’s mindset.

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on U. S. and Latin America at Fausta’s blog