News and Commentary

California Plan To Inject ‘Social Justice’ Into High School Math On Hold After Backlash

"The proposed framework would, in effect, de-mathematize math."

   DailyWire.com
High School Classroom
Dan Forer via Getty Images

The California Department of Education has received a barrage of criticism from parents and experts after posting a draft of potential revisions to the state’s guidelines on math curriculum and courses.

The education department posted a draft of its proposed reforms in February, expecting to have the plan approved by in November. Backlash to the proposed new math guidelines has put the plan on hold, however, according to The New York Times.

The guidelines, which would advise the state’s public schools and school administrators, would discourage the concept of gifted students while injecting social justice issues, such as gender theory and inequality, into coursework. As the Times reported:

The California guidelines, which are not binding, could overhaul the way many school districts approach math instruction. The draft rejected the idea of naturally gifted children, recommended against shifting certain students into accelerated courses in middle school and tried to promote high-level math courses that could serve as alternatives to calculus, like data science or statistics.

The draft also suggested that math should not be colorblind and that teachers could use lessons to explore social justice — for example, by looking out for gender stereotypes in word problems, or applying math concepts to topics like immigration or inequality. …

Like some of the attempted reforms of decades past, the draft of the California guidelines favored a more conceptual approach to learning: more collaborating and problem solving, less memorizing formulas.

It also promoted something called de-tracking, which keeps students together longer instead of separating high achievers into advanced classes before high school.

The proposed framework has received condemnations from hundreds of STEM field professionals, educators, and public officials who have signed on to an open letter released in July to California Governor Gavin Newsom (D), State Superintendent Tony Thurmond, the State Board of Education, and the Instructional Quality Commission.

“The proposed framework would, in effect, de-mathematize math. For all the rhetoric in this framework about equity, social justice, environmental care and culturally appropriate pedagogy, there is no realistic hope for a more fair, just, equal and well-stewarded society if our schools uproot long-proven, reliable and highly effective math methods and instead try to build a mathless Brave New World on a foundation of unsound ideology,” the letter says.

“A real champion of equity and justice would want all California’s children to learn actual math — as in arithmetic, algebra, geometry, trigonometry and calculus — not an endless river of new pedagogical fads that effectively distort and displace actual math,” it continues.

Proponents of the new guidelines say that the framework is needed to close the gap between high and low performing students. Stanford Professor Jo Boaler said that while “social justice” will be part of the new framework, its influence will be limited.

“I can tell you that the social justice angle is one that has been blown up,” Boaler told CBS 8. “It’s not a huge part of what we’re recommending, but what we’re saying is, of course, mathematics can be used to highlight issues in the world.”

The timeline for the plan’s approval has been pushed into 2022 in either the spring or summer after several more rounds of public comment and revisions.

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