Students who are taught that answers to algebra problems depend on the color of their skin and that calculus professors are oppressors are not only not going to unlock the mysteries of the universe, but they will also believe what is not true about who they are and the world in which they live. Woke educators may hope to liberate students. But by depriving them of objective truths they are subjugating them to bad ideas. It’s a tragically ironic and disastrous miscalculation.
Few subjects seem less political than math. There is little room for subjective judgment because its truths are universal. No matter what you look like or where you’re from or how you feel about it, two plus two will always equal four, and the area of a circle will always be π r². Math is so objective, in fact, some scientists have theorized that prime numbers could offer the basis of communication with supposed intelligent life elsewhere in the cosmos.
However, even if aliens know that math has no racial or gender bias, some educators on Earth seem to think otherwise. Even amid plummeting math scores in the latest Nation’s Report Card data, a growing chorus of progressive voices insists that racism and sexism are the biggest problems we face in how to teach math.
A couple years ago, in an article in the Scientific American, Rachel Crowell complained about the racial and gender disparities among those who make a career out of mathematics. She pointed out, for instance, that “fewer than 1 percent of doctorates in math are awarded to African Americans” and that only 29.1 percent “were awarded to women.” More mathematicians, she writes, have been pushing to discuss these issues and “force the field to confront the racism, sexism and other harmful bias it sometimes harbors.”
Though, undoubtedly, examples of identity-group bias in all fields exist, Crowell chose to root her complaint in intangibles: Math doctorates are not “earned” or “received” or “completed;” they are “awarded,” a word choice that not so subtly reinforces her conclusion that something about math education is racist.
Writing at Newsweek, Jason Rantz cited examples of public schools teaching students that math itself, and the way it has always been taught, is oppressive.