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
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