California’s Board of Education will postpone implementing liberal-leaning changes to its proposed mathematics curriculum. The decision came after people from different walks of life complained to education and political leaders that racial equality and social justice have nothing to do with numbers, quantities, and space.
The state board will no longer add the controversial topics in December as originally planned. It will instead postpone implementation until May 2022, according to its July meeting agenda.
This has pleased a variety of educators and business leaders who totally rejected proposed changes to traditional approaches to teaching science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). More than 460 academics, teachers and business leaders reiterated this view in an open letter to Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, State Superintendent Tony Thurmond, the Instructional Quality Commission, and state board.
“California is on the verge of politicizing K-12 maths in a potentially disastrous way,” said Independent Institute senior fellow Williamson Evers who co-signed the letter. “This postponement means the State Board of Education has heard the message loud and clear: STEM leaders do not want California students left behind by introducing politics into the math curriculum.”
Evers believes talented children are less likely to study more challenging content due to the changes.
“This proposed framework will discourage districts from having advanced classes for gifted students,” the letter said. “It is going to block the rise of talented kids to important roles in society, serving us as engineers, getting rockets in the air, and getting bridges built properly.”
Other signatories warned taking a “step towards social justice and racial equality” would “de-mathematise mathematics.” They insist doing so will destroy opportunities for Californian schoolchildren, especially the poorest and most vulnerable. This is because when schools fail in their teaching mission, the impact on them is greater.
“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,” the letter said. “[They do not want] an endless river of new pedagogical fads that effectively distort and displace actual math.”
They described the state board as “immoral and foolish” for holding back students’s “intellectual growth.”
“Those who are ready to move up should do so,” the letter said. “They should not be held back for fear of recognizing the existence of differences in giftedness–differences which are a reality in every human endeavor.”
Draft versions of the controversial curriculum claim the focus should shift to “equity” because, over time, maths has historically been taught in a way that excludes many students.
“Teachers need to consciously work to counter racialized or gendered ideas about mathematics achievement,” the draft said.
The draft further revealed principles of the changes include rejecting the idea of “natural gifts and talents” because all students deserve “powerful” maths. It also proposes that all students be kept together in the same maths programme until grade 11. This is because offering differentiated programmes allegedly causes “fragility” in students and racial animosity.