Thursday, March 22, 2007

Marxist Math Teachers and So-called Social Justice

It's bad enough when my fellow teachers are Marxists, but when a fellow math teacher is a Marxist, I'm truly disconsolate. How can they be so wrong? Where has Marxism ever helped anyone?

One place where this movement thrives is El Puente Academy for Peace and Justice in Brooklyn, the city’s first “social justice” high school. The school’s lead math teacher, Jonathan Osler, is using El Puente as a base for a three-day conference in April on “Math Education and Social Justice.” Osler offers this compelling rationale for the conference: “The systemic and structural oppression of low income [people] and people of color continues to worsen. The number of people in prison continues to grow, as does our unemployment rate. . . . These problems and many others are being addressed by community organizations and activists, and often find their way into Social Studies and English classes. However, in math classes around the country, perhaps the best places to study many of these issues, we continue to use curricula and models that lack any real-world—let alone socially relevant—contexts.”

I've written at length about the social justice movement--not just why it's wrong-headed, but also why it's harmful. To get a feel for what this movement truly represents, click on the social justice label below or at left and read the posts. To find out how harmful (and academic-content-free) social justice in a math class is, read this post in particular. In that post I dissembled the information put out by the Rethinking Schools people (there's a label below and at left for them, too) regarding how to inject this insidious liberalism and Marxism into a math class. That post, while long, is worth your time if you are interested in keeping math a "pure" science and not allowing it to become another social science.


David Foster said...

Even the Communists (of the Soviet variety) knew that the best way to use math to fight poverty was to use it to build dams, blast furnaces, etc.

Of course, they also tried to use it to plan the total economy...

Darren said...

You're right, David. Look what happened when they let their ideology drive their math--and especially their economics.

e said...

Mathematics is not separate from the rest of the world. Mathematics classroom is even less so.

Darren said...

E, you are correct. However, mathematics is a pure science that should be used to inform the other sciences--especially the social sciences--and not vice versa.

Anonymous said...

I am a bit confused about this social justice in the math class nonsense. Is this being used by some wackjob school somewhere by some lunatic fringe, or is there a possibility that it might become "standard" in public education as a whole?

If lunatics are using it in some wacked out school and there are parents stupid enough to let their children come into the clutches of these lunatics, well that is sad but the parents' fault. But, if this nonsnse is going to become standard curriculum for public schools at large then I have a HUGE problem with it.

Darren said...

Curious, you bring up an excellent point.

Right now, the social justice movement hasn't gone mainstream yet--because it's a wackjob organization. But let's not forget that it's extremely left-wing, and that a majority of teachers, and certainly their unions, are left-leaning.

The piece I linked to mentions a *public* high school in New York City. Ed schools have for years tried to slip "social justice dispositions" into the requirements for prospective teachers. Read about the Rethinking Schools (click on the label) movement. In this era of "school reform" and Democrats becoming more ascendant politically, that could be the face of school reform for the next decade.

It's wackjob now, but could become mainstream. I'm not sure whether we should be afraid or be diligent. Probably both.

Anonymous said...

I think it was Hayek who said, when ever you use the word "social" as a modifier of another word, the other word is gutted of all real meaning. In this case, it's justice that bites the big one.

Anonymous said...

These people also don't realize the value of getting AWAY from all the social-political noise. When I was in high school I rather enjoyed classes that ignored all the current blather and took me to another place mentally. Sort of like, transcending the moment.

These people are just trying to let kids get out of something they need.

Instructivist said...

The far-left "social justice" crap is far more pervasive than indicated above. Here in Chicago most of the new Gates-supported so-called Renaissance schools are embued with this ideology.

Click on the Renaissance link in my post.


UPLIFT Community School (at Arai) |
900 W. Wilson | Chicago, IL 60640 | P: 773-534-2875 | F: 773-534-2876 | Unit 2210
Principal: Stephanie Y. Moore,
Current Grades: 6th - 12th
Year Opened: Fall 2005
• Students enrolled in Uplift will be attending a college preparatory school with a social justice philosophy. Uplift wants its students to be educated agents of change. Educational emphasis is placed on reading, math, use of technology, research and writing, coupled with student creativity. Students will also be able to earn Uplift high school credit by taking freshman level courses.

School of Social Justice (at Little Village) |
3120 S. Kostner Avenue | Chicago, IL 60623 | P: 773-535-4300 | F: 773-535-4271 | Unit 7600
Principal: Rito Martinez,
Current Grades: 9th – 12th
Year Opened: Fall 2005
• Born out of a historical community struggle, 14 courageous parents and community members waged a 19-day hunger strike for a quality education. The values of social justice, peace, self-determination, community participation and empowerment inform our schools. The School of Social Justice ensures that all students become critical thinkers through a curriculum that is rigorous, innovative, and implemented through meaningful school relationships. Project-based and problem-based learning that addresses real world issues through the lens of race, gender, culture, economic equity, peace, justice, and the environment is the catalyst for our curriculum.

Duez said...

Were you aware that there are more african american males in prison than the entire number of people enrolled in colleges and universities in America?

allenm said...

What's the target of all this outrage? That the wrong flavor of indoctrination is being served up, i.e. not my kind of indoctrination or at the use of the public education system as a tool of indoctrination?

If it's the former then join the club. From intelligent design at one end of the political spectrum to social justice at the other the plum is the opportunity to form all those malleable, young minds to your liking.

If it's the latter then you might want to keep it too your self. The prospect of sowing the seeds of the victory of your views in those receptive, young minds is so obviously the right thing to do that disagreement is seen as evidence of insanity.

Darren said...

In Marxist societies, there are more people in prison that free societies have in both prison and in higher education.

Facts without context are nothing more than sound bytes.

As for your comment, Allen, my outrage is a bit of both of the reasons you suggested.

allenm said...

Darren, I understand your conundrum.

On the one hand, what's the case for not teaching "We hold these truths to be self-evident..." and the rest of the extraordinary poetry and counter-intuitive philosophy that attends? Since we're built to believe the opposite, that all men are not created equal and that those inferiors are certainly not endowed with any damned rights, it takes some educating to put the point across.

On the other hand, having this indoctrination function controlled by a political process is like leaving a loaded firearm where children can get at it. It's not so much a question of if something bad will happen, it's a question of when and how bad.

Between the two, I think the potential for mischief inherent in the indoctrination function is too dangerous, like the firearm, to leave lying around for some bright-eyed, short-sighted ideologue to put to use.

Besides, there's a very unAmerican angle to public education indoctrination: it runs counter to the idea that all men are created equal.

If an idea, concept, philosophy is good enough then it should be salable in the marketplace of ideas on its merits. But the folks who are peddling ideas too refined, too noble for the general run of humanity - that would be "the masses" - to understand and appreciate can't leave those sorts of decisions up to their inferiors. No room for equality in that point of view. Either you're a member of the self-appointed intelligentsia or you're a cud-chewer, a peer or a commoner. That dichotomy is implicit in the act of indoctrination and while a seven-year old might not be able to articulate the hypocrisy, and erosiveness, of using a method that undercuts the idea of equality to teach the idea of equality, they'll be able to understand it.

Law and Order Teacher said...

When Lenin took power in 1917 he was faced with a starving population. He had seen that farmers did not produce crops in the amount necessary to feed everyone if they had no profit motive. He decreed that peasant farmers could keep the excess crops they produced in order to sell them and keep the profit. He called this his "New Economic Policy." Doesn't sound like anything new to me. He also said that the country would return to communism when the hunger problem was solved. That's "social justice" for you.