The new Framework aims to enable all California students to succeed as “math learners,” but does this by eliminating accelerated class options.
The California State Board of Education (SBOE)—a font of seemingly never ending controversy over the past year—has struck again. Even after the considerable public anger surrounding the new Marxist-inspired, Critical Theory-rife Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC), the SBOE has now begun to revamp its K-12 mathematics curricula with similar philosophies in mind.
The California public school and university systems seem to be gluttons for punishment. As we’ve noted before, they’ve prompted their fair share of strife—from outrage at the Islamist group Council on American-Islamic Relations’ (CAIR) involvement in a San Diego “anti-bullying” program (the same district is now under fire for implementing discriminatory employee Critical Race Trainings) to blowback against the Burbank Unified School District’s practice of temporarily discontinuing the teaching of classic books to the contentious episodes surrounding the development of the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC).
We’ve tracked the ESMC and related debacles for months, and signed or covered multiple efforts by activists and academics alike to rid California’s public school curricula of the neo-Marxist ontological framework known as Critical Theory (including the oft-discussed sub-field, Critical Race Theory). Our previous posts on the issue include:
- Report: California Public School Teachers Being Told to Hide Critical Race Materials From Parents
- Critical Race-Based California Ethnic Studies Curriculum Passes State Board of Education Vote
- California ‘Ethnic Studies Curriculum’ Proposal Gets Worse, Heavy On Critical Race Theory and Anti-Israel Activism;
- California Proposed Ethnic Studies Curriculum A Subterfuge For Anti-American And Anti-Zionist Activism
- Equal Rights Organization Files Complaint Against California School District Over Critical Race Training
- Legal Insurrection Foundation opposes proposed anti-Israel public school curriculum in California
Now, as Mike LaChance blogged on April 15, 2021, the California Education Dept. is Considering Program to Fight Supposed Racism in Math (similar to a curriculum overhaul in Virginia and a program that has been pushed in Oregon). (Note: This post’s featured image is from a news clip about Oregon’s program. You can watch that clip here.)
California’s new Mathematics curriculum standards are meant to apply to public schools statewide, for all children from Transitional Kindergarten through Grade 12. The new standards have actually been in development since March 2019, but popular media have recently picked up the story in the wake of extensive ESMC coverage and the current “anti-racist” activist trend.
The Washington Examiner reports:
…the framework recommends doing away with the accelerated math track the state’s middle school students can currently choose. Under the current system, gifted math students could take both Math 7 and 8 in 7th grade, allowing them to take Algebra 1 in 8th grade. This track puts such students on a pathway to take Calculus by 12th grade, setting the stage for them to take more advanced math courses in college.
The framework argues California’s public schools should do away with grouping students by ability, instead “districts and schools must confront the structural inequities of tracking and ability grouping, and to strengthen their efforts to support all students learning along a common pathway.”
The 13-chapter, 777-page document doesn’t display the same overt anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism, or general bigotry that multiple versions of the California Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum included, but the influence of Leninism, Marxism, and ‘woke’ orthodoxy on the new proposed Mathematics Framework draft is clear nonetheless.
You can see the entire document here or below.
The Framework seeks to remedy “inequities” in mathematics education, and thus operates on a few (dubious) central principles:
- It holds that variations in natural talent, ability, aptitude, or cognitive capabilities in different children don’t really exist—at least in terms of the study of mathematics. Instead, it claims that every child, if nurtured properly, could and would achieve the same level of advanced proficiency in mathematics.
- It demonstrates a preoccupation with “racial” or “ethnic” “inequities” in schools, especially as those “inequities” manifest in students’ enrollment in accelerated programs, and in their performance in math class.
- It asserts that the current system, in which schools divide students into varying math “tracks” that each feature different subject matter and difficulty level matching students’ level of achievement and interest, is shaped by structural biases that stem from the legacy of American math education as designed exclusively for White men.
- It claims that this system is more about excluding most students from opportunities—and dissuading those ‘lesser’ students (for whom this label is arbitrarily applied) from STEM careers—than it is about offering options for students who are particularly interested or ambitious.
- It does not consider other possible explanations for racial, ethnic, or gender disparities in mathematics students; nor does it recognize that students must share some responsibility for their own success (or lack thereof) in school. Remedying such disparities necessitates a focus on inclusivity and fostering a sense of “power” in using math; moreover, the use of “culturally responsive teaching” will enable students to “challenge the status quo of the current social order.”
In reaction to these and other flaws, Mike Malione of the California-based group Piedmont Advanced Learners Program wrote an analysis arguing against the document’s suggestions. As The Washington Examiner notes, Malione believes that the changes could cause “irreparable harm”:
“I predict it will cause irreparable harm to our public’s ongoing preparedness for STEM careers, resulting in unfathomable costs to all when our nation finds itself unable to advance or even properly maintain its highly technological, life-sustaining infrastructure,” Malione wrote in response to the framework.
“My biggest issue with the new framework is that, in its determination to bestow social justice and equity, it denounces existing exclusionary practices as ‘arbitrary or irrelevant,’ without ever honestly examining their necessity in the context of educating a workforce that will be tasked with the technological realities of the mid-21st Century,” Malione continued.
Malione also argued that the framework would do little to provide its stated goal of equitable outcomes, noting that parents with the means to send their children to pricey private schools would begin to have a leg up on some of the traditionally underserved students that attend public schools.
And, while the Framework does boast an impressively long bibliography and ostensibly cites dozens of supporting studies, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that its authors distorted the conclusions of any number of those studies to support their recommendations—as the authors of the ESMC were found to have done.
Still, it’s worth noting that the Framework does contain some valuable nuggets; it acknowledges that rote memorization, administering excessive and constant tests, and completely ignoring the effect of emotional states on students’ performance are poor ways to ensure students’ success in school. It rightly notes that efforts to foster interest in STEM haven’t achieved the desired results, and that there clear flaws in the ways math is often taught. A ‘non-traditional’ learner, I studied hard and tried my best in school; still, I often struggled, especially in math classes—where I faced some of the very issues the Framework identifies. I agree with the Framework authors that there are elements of American STEM education that could badly use an overhaul.
But the certainty with which the Framework attributes problems to “structural bias” without examining other explanations, and the Framework’s obsessive emphasis on ethnic, racial, and gender diversity—rather than diversity of thought—undermines the document’s credibility and limits its usefulness.
Next week, the SBOE is scheduled to present a revised draft of the current Framework. Public comment on the new version will then be allowed once again.
Parents in California and beyond, your voice matters. Use it loudly and proudly.
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