We all know that math is racist. It is used to enforce Whiteness on people by emphasing universalism (there is a truth) and requiring precision (apparently your ability to be precise is highly dependent upon melanin content in the skin). It is a construct that is inherently anti-radical as it assumes some inherent structure to the universe, and that there are “right” answers and wrong ones.

That, at least, is the contention of some mathematics educators, including Dr. Rochelle Gutierrez of the University of Illinois at Urbana. Dr Gutierrez teaches not only Latina/Latino studies, but is also a professor at the School of Education, focusing on curriculum and instruction.

In other words, she is one of the people who trains students to become teachers.

One might be tempted to think that there is a benign intention behind Dr. Gutierrez’ attempts to reform the way that math is taught to students of color. After all, statistics indicate that many such students are having difficulty in math classes and have fallen behind their white compatriots. To the extent that is the case it obviously behooves us to understand why that is and find ways to remedy it.

But no, that is not Rochelle’s approach to the issue at all. The inability of students of color to perform well in math indeed is connected to the way that math is being taught, but that is because math itself is White. So trying to get students up to standard in White math is White Supremacist, and should be stopped.

I subjected myself to a loooooonnnnnnggggggg video of Gutierrez discussing her approach with mathematics educators, and needless to say it is not only filled with buzzwords appropriate to the genre, but vile ideas about racial differences between students. She doesn’t quite come out and say it, but apparently students of color can’t do math because they are not White and are resisting Whiteness. And this is a good thing, apparently.

Gutierrez wasn’t just a speaker at the “Teaching Contemporary Mathematics Conference; she was its keynote speaker. In her speech she spends several minutes doing the whole “land acknowledgment thing,” and then leads into her speech with this:

Mathematics education, you see, is really about radical politics. It should exist to restructure our society into something completely new; a great reset, as it were.

How to do so? Well apparently this is the proper relationship of students to the current education system:

For one thing, students need to be educated about how the current capitalist system is literally destroying the Earth. Not sure how the Science™ used to prove this is done without precise mathematics, but apparently new and important Indigenous math can be used to prove the contention as well.

Remember: these graphics come from a keynote speech given at a conference for math educators. Gutierrez is educating the educators here. And this is what math education is all about according to the University of Illinois at Urbana.

Nice to know. No wonder students of color aren’t doing well in math classes.

What’s fascinating to me, in a perverse way, is how utterly racist all this is. There is absolutely no reason to believe that students of color cannot do math as well as white students. To assume so is to assert that there are fundamental differences in the brains of these students–that by virtue of their skin color or genetics they are incapable of doing complex mathematics.

Why would we believe that? We clearly have plenty of examples of non-White people who do just fine in such studies. For all his political ineptitude, I have always assumed that Neil DeGrasse-Tyson can do the math that physics requires far better than I could. He studied Physics at Harvard, UT Austin, and Columbia and got a PhD.

That takes some chops. I may disagree with him on a lot, but I suspect he knows his calculus and differential equations. And, I would assume given both his studies and his work as a science communicator, he is an intensely curious guy. Why else go through the work of getting where he is today?

Gutierrez, though, thinks math is based upon fear and compulsion. Nobody would do it but for things like this:

Hence the need to rehumanize mathematics, or rather create something entirely new: mathematax.

Of course there is nothing surprising about this nonsense being out there, especially in an ethnic studies department.

But this isn’t an ethnic studies department; this is literally intended as curriculum development for math teachers who will filter out into the school system.

The math-is-racist professor also thinks that rocks are alive and apparently should have the same rights as humans. pic.twitter.com/6qrClwxc4G

— David Bernstein (@ProfDBernstein) January 23, 2023

Is it any wonder that there is a huge achievement gap between Asian and white students and their counterparts in other ethnic groups? Nobody is actually trying to close that gap.

Instead they are redefining what mathematics is. Into mathematx.

Lord help us. We are doomed.

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