Print

Print


Note: In spite (or maybe because of!) these kinds of negative snidely  
flippant redbaiting type newspieces the Math & Social Justice  
Conference is attracting more than 400 educators and students to come  
and discuss/network and organize a more empowering way to not only  
teach and learn mathematics, but also to find ways to apply it for  
the advancement of Humanity, social justice and the preservation of  
Nature.... And this kind of gathering can be frightening to those who  
rule by lies, by deception and by "dumbing-downism."
=======================================

Runnin' Scared

Weighting for Lefty-- Solving for Malcolm X at a Brooklyn confab
by Suzanne La Barre

April 24th, 2007
Math conferences aren't typically hotbeds of controversy. But add a  
Harvard-trained civil rights philosopher, a notorious Weather  
Underground fugitive, and a clutch of young, idealistic math  
teachers, and you have a banner-waving radical math convention—not to  
mention a formula for backlash.

Creating Balance in an Unjust World, slated for April 27 through 29  
in Brooklyn, is fronted by hotshot lefty math icons Bob Moses—founder  
of the Algebra Project, a math program for inner-city and rural  
students—and Bank Street College of Education adjunct professor Cathy  
Wilkerson, who's fortunately not teaching chemistry. (In 1970,  
Wilkerson and a pack of fellow Weather Underground radicals  
inadvertently blew up her father's West 11th Street brownstone—and  
killed three fellow Weathermen—with homemade bombs intended for the  
Columbia University library.)

The conference was organized by a group of 10 educators, including  
Jonathan Osler, lead math teacher at the El Puente academy for peace  
and social justice in Williamsburg and founder of radicalmath.org.  
About 400 people are expected to participate in a weekend dedicated  
to making math instruction more politically and socially relevant.

Proponents point to American children's poor international standing  
in math proficiency and the persistence of the black-white  
achievement gap as evidence for the need to upend current teaching  
practices. "A lot of people hate math," says K. Wayne Yang, an  
assistant ethnic-studies professor at the University of California,  
San Diego, and founder of the progressive charter school East Oakland  
Community High, where Tupac numerology counts as a class assignment.  
That's the conspiracy theory that Tupac Shakur, who was murdered in  
1996, faked his death and left clues in the number seven: Tupac was  
25 when he died (2+5=7) seven months after the release of the album  
All Eyez on Me, an album that includes the song "Heartz of Men," in  
which Tupac says, "I died and came back" three minutes and 13 seconds  
into the track (3+1+3=7). "This is something that applies to their  
lives," Yang says of such projects that students can relate to, "and  
ideally, gets them to love math."

The convention will even include mathematical deconstructions of  
Barbie. Swapna Mukhopadhyay, a professor at Portland State  
University, will lead a workshop on teaching students how to analyze  
Barbie's cartoonish proportions. Mukhopadhyay says students will  
learn about "body size . . . body-image and self-worth issues, eating  
disorders, multicultural issues . . . media domination, labor issues,  
etc."

Some educators, however, aren't down with the program. "I don't  
believe that the classroom in a public school should be used for any  
political indoctrination, whether by activists for social justice or  
activists for creationism or activists for a particular foreign  
policy," says Diane Ravitch, a research professor at New York  
University. "What if you discovered that test scores soar in  
classrooms where the teachings insist on teaching creationism or  
fascism? It would still be wrong. The classroom should not be a  
podium for the personal political beliefs of the teachers. Period."

And even among the like-minded, the notion of radicalizing algebra  
class is a tough sell. "I believe in social justice," says Wilfried  
Schmid, a Harvard math professor and member of the American  
Mathematical Society Committee on Education. "But if the teaching of  
mathematics constantly carries an undertone of political action, the  
mathematics suffers."











--------------------------------------------------
s. e. anderson (author of "The Black Holocaust for Beginners" -  
Writers + Readers) + http://blackeducator.blogspot.com