Missouri school district to fight bias, racism in math curriculum

(The Daily Signal) – A Missouri school district plans to include the personal pronouns “they/them” in math problems and hire certified teachers as “math interventionists” to fight racism…

(The Daily Signal) – A Missouri school district plans to include the personal pronouns “they/them” in math problems and hire certified teachers as “math interventionists” to fight racism and gender bias in math classes after a curriculum evaluation.

“A persistent myth within math education is that since ‘numbers are universal,’ math classrooms are objective and free of bias,” says the Webster Groves School District’s Math Program Evaluation, which was presented Thursday during a Board of Education meeting.

“Research shows clearly that any space where learning occurs is neither free of bias nor resistant to oppressive systems such as racism, sexism, classism or xenophobia,” Susan Bergman, the district’s math curriculum director, wrote in a PowerPoint presentation reviewed afterward by The Daily Signal.

Webster Groves School District, located in a wealthy suburb of St. Louis, pledges to provide students, particularly black students, with opportunities for “mathematics socialization and mathematics identity development.”  The district has 10 schools and 4,409 students.

According to Bergman’s slide presentation, student surveys showed a need for the school district to “Include they/them pronouns in our word & contextual problems (not just he/she)” and “Strengthen relationships between students and teachers, helping to develop learners’ mathematical identities.”

The presentation says math classrooms are subject to bias and oppressive systems. (Photo: Webster Groves School District K-12 Math Evaluation/Susan Bergman)

Inserting what proponents call “anti-racism” into public school curriculums is a trend throughout the nation.

Maryland’s largest school district, Montgomery County, is reevaluating its homework policies “with an anti-racism lens” to determine how homework affects “social-emotional learning” and whether it negatively impacts “marginalized communities,” The Daily Signal reported.

As defined by critical race theorist Ibram X. Kendi, anti-racism holds that a person’s every act is either racist or anti-racist. Being “not racist” isn’t good enough, Kendi teaches, because not actively contributing to so-called anti-racist causes can make one a racist.

Critical race theory teaches that everything in public and private life—a person’s job, government, school—must be considered with respect to racial identities.

Missouri’s Webster Groves school system says it will consider hiring certified teachers to serve as “math interventionists.” The school district could offer teacher-level salaries to the math specialists, which start as high as $54,000 for teachers with master’s degrees and almost $47,000 for teachers with bachelor’s degrees.

“In the event that teacher compensation is not a possibility, we recommend that at a minimum an increased pay structure is considered for all math interventionists,” Bergman’s presentation says.

The school district will develop a plan to address disparities in math assessment data, update the high school math curriculum, upgrade classroom technology for high school math, and build so-called mathematical communities.

Bergman also said she will meet with the school district’s director of diversity, equity, and inclusion and establish a partnership with Math314’s Achieving Equity Professional Development series. A program of Washington University in St. Louis, Math314 aims to “foster equitable learning environments,” the university’s website says.

“Our desired outcome is that we want students to feel that math is approachable and accessible so they can develop a stronger appreciation for the subject and develop a lifelong love for learning,” Derek Duncan, communications director for the Webster Groves School District, told The Daily Signal.

But Jay Greene, senior research fellow in the Center for Education Policy at The Heritage Foundation, said a better way to fight discrimination is to aspire not to discriminate. (The Daily Signal is the multimedia news outlet of The Heritage Foundation).

“No one claims that math education (or any other endeavor for that matter) is free of potential bias and discrimination,” Greene told The Daily Signal. “But observing that potential bad behavior is a universal aspect of the human condition is not the same as embracing the critical race theory view that this bad behavior only goes in one direction—that some are inherently oppressors while others are oppressed.”

The Webster Groves school district has a history of woke curriculum. Last fall, a high school librarian encouraged students to check out books featuring sexually explicit LGBT material, critical race theory, and transgender education to enter a raffle for a “sweet prize.”

Additionally, the district posted a “Moving Toward Equity” guide on its website before the 2018-2019 school year, saying that the school system offers anti-racism training to staff on eliminating so-called implicit bias, holds social justice workshops on privilege and oppression, and has an equity officer position in the district’s Parent-Teacher Organization.

“In order to change the pattern of better serving certain groups of children, we must disrupt traditional beliefs, systems, structures, and practices which favor those privileged by race, economics, gender, etc.,” the school district’s guide says.

This article was originally published at The Daily Signal.