Math proficiency is white supremacy, proclaims Deborah Lowenberg Ball, a mathematics professor and former dean of the University of Michigan School of Education.
In the latest episode of the EdFix Podcast, Ball complains that math is a “harbor for whiteness” and “the very nature of the knowledge and who’s produced it, and what has counted as mathematics is itself dominated by whiteness and racism.” She groans that considering math proficiency to be a sign of intelligence is “raced.” In response, host, Michel Feuer, dean of the George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development, gushes, “Listening to you is the greatest positive reinforcement to be in this profession.”
Unsurprisingly, Ball’s solution included a plug for her consultancy, TeachingWorks, funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. TeachingWorks is no doubt ready to profit by assisting school districts to interrupt “patterns of racism.”
Ball’s views and Feuer’s obeisance sound like parody. Yet, this dangerous paradigm — that getting the right answer, using the right method, or believing some students are more capable than others is white supremacy — is strongly endorsed by educators, leading mathematics organizations, and policy-makers. Include, in the latter group, the Oregon and California Departments of Education. Much of the research and the dissemination of this twaddle is funded by the Gates Foundation, which last year spent $642 million for its U.S. program, including Pathways and other initiatives that focus on eliminating white supremacy from math.
The canard that math is racist has been around for a while. Campus Reform concisely summarized the thesis of a 2017 book by Rochelle Gutierrez, a professor at the University of Illinois, who asserts: “On many levels, mathematics itself operates as whiteness. Who gets credit for doing and developing mathematics, who is capable in mathematics, and who is seen as part of the mathematical community is generally viewed as white.”