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Critical Race Theory in Mathematics
The assumption of racist values and beliefs is destructive to students

The Oregon Department of Education received national attention from major media outlets this week after releasing their monthly Math Educator Update. The news sources focused on a specific teacher training course that claims “white supremacy culture infiltrates math classrooms in everyday teacher actions,” and, “[c]oupled with the beliefs that underlie these actions, they perpetuate educational harm on Black, Latinx, and multilingual students, denying them full access to the world of mathematics.”

The ODE Update also included a document called The Mo(ve)ment to Prioritize Antiracist Mathematics. The board states they have been thinking about using some of the principles outlined in this document to promote anti-racism in teaching mathematics throughout Oregon public schools. The anti-racist and equity principles put forth in these resources are more widely known as Critical Race Theory, which is built on the premise that racism is ingrained in our society and a fact of American life. “CRT questions liberalism and the ability of a system of law built on it to create a just society.” CRT teachings are divisive and harmful to students because they utilize immutable external characteristics rather than individual behavior and actions to determine culpability in perpetuating racism.

Here is a quick look at some of the CRT material promoted by ODE:

“A Pathway to Math Equity Micro-Course”

Within this course, math educators are guided through monthly practical exercises to reflect on their own biases and teaching practices to better recognize and subsequently deconstruct White supremacy culture in their classrooms. One example given, for instance, is the common request teachers make for students to “show their work.” The authors theorize that this is evidence of White supremacy culture, stating that it is “a crutch for teachers seeking to understand what students are thinking,” instead of an attempt to gain insight into student comprehension of new concepts. Teachers trying to understand students' thinking, they claim, is racist.

They go on to state that White supremacy is reinforced by the belief that “teachers are teachers and students are learners,” ingraining cultural ideals of “paternalism and power-holding” in teachers. Furthermore, “valuing independent work” is White supremacy culture because “[independent work] reinforces individualism and…, does not give value to collectivism and community understanding, and fosters conditions for competition and individual success.”



There is no question that educator’s techniques should be evaluated and discussed with the goal of improving student’s experiences and learning. However, contextualizing common practices such as “showing work” and obtaining “right” answers in a framework of racism is simply inappropriate. The assumption that teacher actions are undergirded by racist values and beliefs is destructive to students and relationships within the classroom.

This material put forth by the Oregon Department of Education is an attempt to strip liberties from students and teachers by reducing them to nothing more than the color of their skin and lowering the bar for academic achievement. “A hundred years ago civil rights leaders would unhesitatingly have sought to get black people the skills they needed to break in, not indignantly demand that the powers that be change what they think of standards,” as stated by John McWhorter, linguist and associate professor at Columbia University.

Editor's note: The author of this article, Natalee Maxfield, is with Liberty in Education

--Natalee Maxfield

Post Date: 2021-02-20 18:12:50Last Update: 2021-02-20 18:37:27

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