Have you been partaking in racist activities as of late?
I’m referring, to be clear, to engagements in science and math.
According to a college teacher, those study areas are rife with the “R” word.
Yet there is hope, alas.
Last month, University of Michigan Professor Deborah Ball appeared on the Ed Fix Podcast.
The episode: “Fighting Racism with Mathematics.”
She believes digits and deciphering can be wielded as weapons of justice. Yet, the field is infected.
Deborah Ball, professor at @UMichEducation, was featured on an EdFix podcast discussing the power and possibility of mathematics teaching to disrupt patterns of racism and oppression. Listen to the podcast: https://t.co/zdBwARHBRE pic.twitter.com/52HGF3YVRK
— University of Michigan (@UMich) August 11, 2021
And it’s not general racism; it’s color-coded.
Dr. Deborah lamented that math is “dominated by whiteness and racism.”
There’s a hood in the harbor:
“It’s difficult to figure out how to surface and unpack the ways that mathematics, for example, is a harbor for whiteness.”
But take heart:
“Math has a role to play in disrupting white supremacy and racism that no other subject has.”
The host — Michael Feuer, dean of George Washington University’s Graduate School of Education and Human Development as well as president of the National Academy of Education — introduced Deborah as “an all-around champion of American education.”
The professor, he noted, is former dean of the University of Michigan School of Education. During her past 15 years in that position, she’s taught mathematics to elementary kids.
As schools return to in-person operation, Michael posed, “there’s a chance “to learn new things about what’s happening in education.” Subsequently, “this could be a moment” for a “Grand Reset.”
To that end, Deborah’s got ideas.
As relayed by Campus Reform, she contends “whiteness” “plays an integral role in explaining the racial and ethnic disparities that exist in mathematics performance. She [claims] that, since White and Asian students are overrepresented in high-level mathematics, new pedagogy is required to increase access to underrepresented minority students.”
Per the outlet, subjectivity is key:
[Deborah said] mathematics is “dominated by whiteness and racism.” She also expressed frustration at her mathematics and science colleagues. whom she described as resistant to her ideas that the disciplines are just as subjective in interpretation and analysis as the humanities.
Where exposing educational bigotry toward black people is concerned, Dr. Ball’s been on the ball.
Her UM faculty page paints a teacher/activist:
[Her] research focuses on the practice of teaching, using elementary mathematics as a critical context for investigating the challenges of building relationships with children and helping children develop agency and understanding, and on leveraging the power of teaching to disrupt racism, marginalization, and inequity.
For the Detroit Free Press, she penned “Why School Isn’t a Safe Place for Every Child.”
From the March op-ed:
Persistent racialized patterns in evaluation…lead to the over-labeling of Black students as “special needs” and disproportionate assignment to special education and under-selection for enrichment programs. White students are twice as likely to be selected for gifted and talented programs, and studies show that…teacher judgment plays a critical role. …
[T]here are children for whom the last year has been a painful or harmful time… But for many Black and Brown children, to be out of the white gaze of punishment and deficit views was a welcome respite from fear and control.
The curriculum has also been unsafe. It has detached students of color, LGBTQIA+ students and multilingual children as they learn that they are not “normal.” The images, knowledge, people and values that permeate history, science and art, as well as mathematics, language and text are harmful. They distort the experiences of Indigenous people, of Black communities and of immigrant groups. They re-inscribe whiteness, heteronormativity and English as normal and desirable.
Deborah’s hardly the first academic to worry over whiteness overwhelming education.
Cases in point:
How do we boot whiteness from school?
Can it be whacked, so long as Caucasians lurk?
To whatever degree there’s a way, Dr. Deborah’s doing her part.
She teaches “Foundational Perspectives on Education Reform,” a graduate course which — per its listing — “seeks to peel back the cover of education reform efforts.”
Watch it, CR — counting is math.
And you know what math is.
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