California’s New Anti-Racist Math: Where 2 +2 = Whatever You Want

California’s New Anti-Racist Math: Where 2 +2 = Whatever You Want
California’s New Anti-Racist Math: Where 2 +2 = Whatever You Want

“When all is said and done, a lot more will be said than done.”

The above quote, attributed to many sources, is an all-too-accurate assessment of the state of academia, especially those engaged in Critical Race Theory (CRT).

An Ongoing Controversy

CRT is at the center of a raging debate over the teaching of history. Former President Trump opposed it; President Biden supports it. Tennessee, Idaho, and Texas forbid it, while Washington State and Illinois require it. Rochester, Minnesota favors CRT to the point that dissenters are not allowed to criticize it.

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The State of California is “all in” on CRT. It seems impossible, but the “Eureka” State even extends it to mathematics.

Traditionally, mathematics was free from the political controversy that shook the humanities. Math is a process that, if properly applied, leads to a correct answer. Two plus two equals four independent of the race, sex, class, age, or religion of the person doing the calculation. Unlike other fields, math is colorblind to identity.

Now CRT declares math is not colorblind, and anyone who claims the contrary is a racist.

Racist Mathematics?

California is engaged in rooting out racism in algebra, trigonometry, and calculus. Future generations can be free of racist demands to calculate the correct answers.

That “liberation” is the goal of California’s “Mathematics Framework,” a manual currently under review by the Instructional Quality Commission of the California Department of Education. It is a mind-numbing 857 pages in length, spread out over thirteen chapters.

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Most California math teachers will probably not read the Framework.  They are invited to consult the 82-page A Pathway to Equitable Math Instruction: Dismantling Racism in Mathematics Instruction.

The Pathway spells out its goals. “The framework for deconstructing racism in mathematics offers essential characteristics of antiracist math educators and critical approaches to dismantling white supremacy in math classrooms by making visible the toxic characteristics of white supremacy culture… with respect to math.”

“Toxic White Supremacy”

The authors thoughtfully provide a list of “toxic characteristics of white supremacy culture.” The “definitions” below are paraphrased from those prepared by the Minnesota Historical Society’s “Department of Inclusion and Community Engagement” to which the Framework refers.

  • Perfectionism – avoiding mistakes
  • Sense of Urgency – looking for quick answers
  • Defensiveness – protecting those who hold power
  • Quantity Over Quality – measuring levels of accomplishment
  • Worship of the Written Word – prizing the ability to write over other skills
  • Paternalism – decisions made by designated leaders
  • Either/Or Thinking – one answer is right, and all others are wrong
  • Power Hoarding – unwillingness to share power
  • Fear of Open Conflict – diffusing tense situations by being polite
  • Individualism –individual competition prevails over team spirit
  • Only One Right Way – see Either/Or Thinking
  • Progress is Bigger, More –serving more people while ignoring quality
  • Objectivity – prizing linear thinking and disregarding emotions
  • Right to Comfort – the powerful deserve comfort and avoid those who cause discomfort

The list portrays the “dominant culture” in the worst possible light. However, the Pathway never explains how those characteristics are peculiar to white people. Nevertheless, they carry the assumption that teachers who “really care” about their students will want to weed them out as they approach the CRT ideal.

Unattainable Goals

The Framework lists six ways that teachers can create “antiracist” classrooms.

  • Design a Culturally Sustaining Math Space
  • Center Ethnomathematics
  • Make Rigor Accessible Through Strong and Thoughtful Scaffolding
  • Prepare Students of Color to Close The Gap in Access to STEM Fields
  • Embrace and Encourage Multiple and Varying Ways of Sharing, Showing and Communicating Knowledge
  • Support Students to Reclaim their Mathematical Ancestry

The Pathway provides definitions for some obscure terms. For example,  the “Culturally Sustaining Math Space” is where “the cultural ways of being in communities of color are sustained, rather than eradicated.” The term “ethnomathematics” is “used to express the relationship between culture and mathematics.” It does not, however, even try to explain “mathematical ancestry.”

Nowhere does the Pathway tell teachers how they are supposed to ensure students will learn mathematics without the dangers of perfectionism, paternalism or objectivity.

Under this plan, the students may learn about “oppression.” Many teachers will twist themselves into pretzel-shapes trying to help their students learn despite the outrageous guidelines. Administrators gain a weapon against reluctant teachers who see the futility of this wrong-headed approach.

Why Is Anybody Listening?

Even the most leftist teachers and administrators know that a good mathematics background helps students succeed – and these standards will hurt them. So, why are these ridiculous and self-defeating ideas gaining so much traction? Several possible answers come to mind.

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First, educators have been trying to deal with “achievement gaps” between white and black students for decades. Some studies show that both white and black students are learning slightly more, but the gap still exists. This has to be a major embarrassment. Blaming it all on racism provides a convenient excuse.

Second, the programs allow the left to ignore the most likely causes of these gaps. Children in stable homes are better able to learn than those who live in chaos. The stability of any home requires the presence of two married parents. The CDC calculated the 2018 white illegitimacy rate to be 28.2 percent, 51.8 percent among Hispanics, and 69.4 percent for blacks. Considering that disparity, it is a wonder that the achievement gap is not even more expansive. The wise course would be to encourage marriage and discourage divorce and other immoral behaviors, measures that leftists would never accept.

Third is that the leftists promoting CRT have gained immense power by exploiting accelerating racial animosities over the last few years. That situation has been disastrous for American cities, especially those with high minority populations. However, the far left has enjoyed a bonanza in ideological, political and financial terms. Political positions that were laughable a decade ago are now received enthusiastically by segments of the U.S. voting public.

Groping Toward a Solution

However, there are glimmers of light on the horizon. Increasing numbers see the racism inherent in many “antiracist” ideas. Some states are openly rejecting CRT. The COVID crisis has made many Americans wary of government over-regulation. Amid the disaster called “distance learning,” some parents sat in on classes and became more aware of the educationists’ leftist slant.

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Even in California, CRT is unpopular. Despite one of the most liberal state governments in the country, it has taken over eight years for this program to reach this point. Californians rejected one draft of the plan in 2019. This one could still fail.

Critical Race Theory is so contrary to Christian and traditional civic values that many people reject it when exposed. The only real answer to the problems raised by racial issues is a return to the traditional teachings of the Catholic Church that informed Christian civilization. United by the love of God and each other, the Church has always held out the promise of dignity for all, regardless of race or ethnicity. Those who adopt the neo-Marxist language of oppressor and oppressed can only offer increased hatred and division.

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