You knew it was coming sooner or later: Amairkuhn edykayshun has finally decided to go after mathematics as being discriminatory and segregating and, well, one suspects that behind all this whining, there's a group of people that just don't "get" all those hieroglyphics on the blackboard or in their no-longer-existing hardcopy textbooks, but they'd very much like to pretend to get all the hieroglyphics, and be able to write them too. But in any case, you heard it here: math - in the latest lunacy to come from Doctors of Edublither and Edubabble Departments sponsoring courses in Methodoloboggle for that all important "license to practice methodoloboggle" on hapless students called the "teacher certification"... yes, math has come under fire, according to this article shared by a number of people this week:
Now, believe it or not, I'm not going to rant about this. Rather, I'm going to say these teachers might be on to something, but alas, they're probably on to something in a way that robs their discovery of all possible joy, and opens the door for more psychobabble and edublither, with healthy dollops of pedagogimuck thrown in for good measure in the many Departments of Edublither in the Amairkuhn quackademy:
The National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics (NCSM) and TODOS: Mathematics for All “ratify social justice as a key priority in the access to, engagement with, and advancement in mathematics education for our country’s youth,” the groups declared last year in a joint statement, elaborating that “a social justice stance interrogates and challenges the roles power, privilege, and oppression play in the current unjust system of mathematics education—and in society as a whole.”
Math has "been used to educate children into different societal roles such as leadership/ruling class." Tweet This
Next month, NCSM and TODOS, along with a few other membership societies for math teachers, will host a free webinar drawing upon the principals noted in their joint statement, inviting any interested members of the public to join in hearing “A Call for a Collective Action to Develop Awareness: Equity and Soc....”
While the organizations hope that math can be used as a tool for social justice in the future, they also believe that math has historically perpetuated “segregation and separation,” asserting in their joint statement that “mathematics achievement, often measured by standardized tests, has been used as a gatekeeping tool to sort and rank students by race, class, and gender starting in elementary school.”
The real key here, to my mind, isn't all the claptrap about social justice and the other Bolshevizing cliches that pass for in depth commentary and social philosophy these days. The real problem is precisely the standardized test, which these teachers, in my opinion, get absolutely right: it is a sorting and slotting mechanism, because it was designed to be such at the outset, as Gary Lawrence and I point out in our book Rotten to the (Common) Core. The "project" was the brainchild of then Harvard president James Bryant Conant and his associate Henry Chauncey, who founded the Educational Testing (Dis)Service in Princeton.
I well remember these tests: we were told we could use scratch paper to "work out our answers," but we were never able to submit how we arrived at an answer as part of our "test." This was the exact opposite of the way we actually did it in my linear algebra or trig classes: there the teachers demanded we show our work, not just the answer. It was the process that interested them as much as it was the answer itself. Did we know the "useful shortcuts"? What steps did we use to solve the problem? Could we differentiate? Integrate? Did we even know what a differential was?
The standardized tests demanded none of that: they just wanted an "answer", and demanded that we, the students in South Dakota, somehow read the minds of the anonymous test-preparers in Princeton, minds which, as Mr. Lawrence and I pointed out in our book, were often agreed upon wrong answers and designing tests which, in the words of mathematician Banesh Hoffman, "punished the finer mind."
If these teachers are serious about their critique of standardized tests, then the answer is simple: get rid of them, altogether. Throw them and the whole rotten edubabble-textbook-Common Core "industry" out the door. But given the bolshevizing tendency of so much going on elsewhere in our culture, I'm not optimistic about what truckloads of nonsense they might be willing to drive through the opening. In this case, the cure might be worse than the disease. What we'll see instead, I fear, is more classes on methodoloboggle and pedagogimuck, with big dumplings of Gramscian "sensitivity" served up to attain one's "license to practice social justice in a mathematical context." The result, of course, will be more Navy crews that cannot steer a ship, more airplanes that don't work, and a federal budget that makes no sense, is missing trillions of dollars, because people, while being "sensivtive", can no longer add, subtract, multiply, or divide.
See you on the flip side...