Danehy: Time to call BS on people who say math instruction is racist

Those of us who tend to lean a certain way politically are quick to expect the dwindling number of reasonable people on the center-right to come to the defense of America and democracy when their brethren on the fringes introduce yet another conspiracy theory or a lame-brained explanation as to why they think it's okay for horrible people to do horrible things. But if we don't point out stupidity on our side of the divide, aren't we guilty of the ultimate political sin, that of hypocrisy?

It is in that spirit that I share with you something so mind-numbingly bizarre that it affords all Americans—left, center, and right—the rare opportunity to come together to roundly ridicule something that has inexplicably made its way into the public square. It is called "A Pathway to Equitable Math Instruction: Dismantling Racism in Math Instruction."

In its opening salvo of dumbassery masquerading as we-care-so-much pedagogy, the authors write "White supremacy culture infiltrates math classrooms in everyday teacher actions...(perpetuating) educational harm on Black, Latinx, and multilingual students."

You heard me. White supremacy math, right here in River City.

In all sincerity, we as a society should watch for racist and/or other forms of revisionist propaganda that can creep into history or civics or even English classes. The guy who was President last year, trying to counter those horrible rumors that there used to be slavery in the United States, had some of his cronies craft a flag-waving curriculum in an effort to re-white history.

But this is math.

Before we address this non-existent problem, can we PLEASE stop trying to make "Latinx" happen? It's like Gretchen Weiner in Mean Girls trying to make "fetch" a thing.

Latinx is defined as "relating to people of Latin American origin or descent (used as a gender-neutral or non-binary alternative to Latino or Latina)." Seriously?! Do we really need to do that?

I'm old enough to remember when the term most-commonly used was "Mexican." Not Mexican-American, but Mexican, even if somebody was Guatemalan or Dominican or Chilean. Thankfully, society evolved to "Hispanic," which a lot of people still use. Few, if any, people are offended by it. But then, some people moved on to the next step and began using Latino or Latina.

You should never say never; there may well be a new term that comes along in a decade or so that supplants Hispanic and Latina. But it damn sure ain't gonna be Latinx. It's like taking the seventh derivative of an equation and expecting it to mean something.

(The first two derivatives give you velocity and acceleration, while the third gives you jerk, which is basically the acceleration of the acceleration. The fourth, fifth and sixth derivatives give you nonsense. They're known as snap, crackle and pop, which shows you just how seriously they should be taken. The seventh may someday be known as Latinx.)

I suppose I understand the desire of some people to use a word that is non-gender-specific. But there are others who prefer to be referred to in gender-specific terms. So, in an effort to keep from offending one group, you end up offending another. Sticking with the calculus theme, trying to find the perfect word is like approaching something as a limit. You're never going to get there.

I read the entire textbook just to see if, on Page 37, it was revealed that it was a side project by people from The Onion. But no, it's serious (and quite embarrassing, as well). Some of their main points are that "we see (that) white supremacy culture in the mathematics classroom can show up when:

"There is a greater emphasis on getting the 'right' answer."

IT'S MATH!!! The right answer doesn't come with quotes. It's the right answer!

I have a friend who is an African-American woman with a Ph.D. Her daughter just graduated high school last week and is off to USC in the fall, where she will either try to make the world a better place or join a sorority. (You can't do both.)

I asked the mom how she would feel if she got a notice from the school informing her that because of her daughter's ethnicity, the child wouldn't be required to get the correct answers in her math class. The kid would just have to try hard. The mom's response was what you might expect from someone who is a mother first and a Ph.D second.

"Independent practice is valued over teamwork and collaboration."

Um...IT'S MATH!!! Since when do students of any ethnic background solve a math problem by committee?

"Contrived word problems are valued over the math in students' lived experiences."

OK, not many people like word problems. (I always did, but I'm weird.) I tutor a lot of kids and I have yet to see a word problem that asks "How many debutantes can you fit on the deck of a 40-foot yacht?" Or, "How much fabric would it take to make pointy hoods for the entire Congressional Freedom Caucus?"

This is a solution to a problem that simply does not exist. In my second Mean Girls reference of the day, math is the same in every language. Shame on the people who came up with the book and shame on liberals and progressives who don't call BS on it.

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