Champaign, Illinois (Accredited Times) – White Privilege has infected all facets of society. Politics. Law. The criminal justice system. And, yes, even mathematics.
Wait, mathematics? Yes, mathematics. As Professor Rochelle Gutiérrez, an accredited mathematics professor at the University of Illinois, has explained: “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,” she continued. Racist features in mathematics include the “Pythagorean theorem and pi,” which perpetuate “a perception that mathematics was largely developed by Greeks and other Europeans.”
Gutiérrez has a highly accredited background and receives a high income from taxpayers in Illinois (over $112,000 per year) — an income that she undoubtedly deserves as taxpayers seek to boost flagging test scores in “STEM” subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). Her online bio describes her important scholastic focus:
“Dr. Gutierrez’ scholarship focuses on equity issues in mathematics education, paying particular attention to how race, class, and language affect teaching and learning. Through in-depth analyses of effective teaching/learning communities and longitudinal studies of developing and practicing teachers, her work challenges deficit views of students who are Latin@/x, Black, and/or American Indian and suggests that mathematics teachers need to be prepared with much more than just content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, or knowledge of diverse students if they are going to be successful. Her current research projects focus upon: developing in pre-service teachers the knowledge and disposition to teach powerful mathematics to urban students; the roles of uncertainty, tensions, and ‘Nepantla’ in teaching; and the political knowledge (and forms of creative insubordination) that mathematics teachers need to effectively teach in an era of high-stakes education.”
According to Gutiérrez, racism in mathematics is pervasive. People of Color commonly “have experienced microaggressions from participating in math classrooms… [where people are] judged by whether they can reason abstractly.”
We need more professors like Professor Gutiérrez to expose just how racist the mathematical disciplines are. Mathematics exams should focus on questions of race, class, sex, gender identity, Islamophobia, and White Privilege — NOT irrelevant subjects, such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, or Euclidean algorithms.
“Are we really that smart just because we do mathematics?” Professor Gutiérrez wondered. “If one is not viewed as mathematical, there will always be a sense of inferiority that can be summoned.”
According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, just 19% of African-American fourth-graders are “proficient” in mathematics. The numbers for African-American eighth-graders are even lower. Just 13% are “proficient” in mathematics. These studies undoubtedly show that racism pervades mathematics curricula and that teachers are focusing excessively on white-friendly themes rather than oppression-related subjects.
Accredited Times commentator Trav777 has suggested abolishing mathematics altogether. “Everything is a social construct and thus when we find blacks who are bad at math, we should abolish math.” Many progressives have wondered if abolishing mathematics even goes far enough. Some have argued for abolishing science as well.
Social justice MUST be the focus of mathematics classes. Until then, our schools will continue to fail our children, and America will lag behind the rest of the world in the STEM fields.