Advanced Placement, California Math Framework, eliminating merit, gifted and talented, math is hard, math is racist, self-imagined elite, STEM disciplines, the cult of genius, woke
As regular readers know, I’ve often written about our societal schizophrenia were school athletics and academics are concerned. Rational, professional teachers have no doubt people are different. Some people find math easy, others English. Some have great musical talent; others can’t carry a tune in a bucket. They also know culture matters greatly. Students that come from a culture that does not value education, that is more concerned with being “authentic” than ultimate personal success, will tend to do poorly in school, even though many members of that culture are potentially no less able than others in various academic discipline.
Prior to the age of Woke, there was a sort of pre-woke movement that essentially denied there were any human differences in academic ability. Everyone should experience the same outcomes. Therefore, it was necessary to eliminate gifted and talented programs so kids not gifted and talented would not feel inferior, and no nail, as the Japanese put it, stuck up, and therefore must be hammered down.
A year after I retired, even my middling sized Texas high school was forced to accept a new policy: any and everyone could be in gifted classes, and it was essentially impossible to remove them for poor—or no–performance. Before, students seeking to enroll in a gifted class in the next school year had to have the recommendation of their current subject matter teacher, and the permission of the teacher under who they would study in the fall. Exclusionary? Non-inclusive? Absolutely, and absolutely necessary.
We do kids no favors by putting them in classes we know they will fail. Nothing damages their self-esteem more than being constantly behind, having no clue what’s happening, and being unable to participate in class. We would, occasionally, accept students with poor academic indicators, but if they weren’t reasonably up to speed at the end of the first six weeks, we’d transfer them to a regular class, which kept them from losing a semester of mandatory credit.
Oh, the concern for such kid’s tender sensibilities were limitless. To salve their tender feelings, we must—we were told–deny the most capable, hard working and intelligent kids the intellectual stimulation they needed and deserved because equity—equal outcomes—was far more important than equality—equal opportunity based on desire, willingness to work and intellect. In effect, we were damaging the children for the children, but not in athletics.
Athletics, you see, are really important. No expense was spared, and only the most athletically gifted and talented made the varsity teams. No one cared about the feelings of the kids who weren’t fast or coordinated, who couldn’t jump high or had little hand-eye coordination. No one pretended that everyone was athletically equal, and they certainly didn’t demand equity. That would only ensure our athletic teams were losers. Athletics, even then, were the exception to the destruction of merit, because athletics are really important.
It’s interesting in that D/S/Cs generally have little interest in sports, yet they are very interested in social engineering. They were behind the movement to deprive kids of winning, to award only participation trophies. They had some small success at this lunacy, but didn’t push too hard because they knew—and know—that’s one area where the pushback would overwhelm them. Circa 2021, their attack on the intelligent, capable and accomplished has no restraint. Consider the case of the math curriculum in California. Richard Bernstein at Real Clear Investigations explains.
The push to create ‘equity’ and more ‘social justice’ in public schools in America’s largest state rests on this basic premise: ‘We reject ideas of natural gifts and talents,’ declares the current draft of the California Math Framework, which also states that it rejects ‘the cult of genius.’
Informed by that fundamental idea, the 800-page Framework calls for the elimination of accelerated classes and gifted programs for high-achieving students until at least the 11th grade.
It’s a major departure for the Framework, commissioned every seven years by the Department of Education to provide guidance to the state’s 10,315 public schools serving 6 million students. Some California teachers describe it as a misguided ‘one size fits all’ approach to reversing long-standing discrimination against girls and students of color in math instruction.
As you read, keep in mind the CA DOE, smarting from pushback, is now apparently going to put off implementing this “framework” for another school year.
But the Framework, which could be adopted next year, claims its recommendations are based on the latest, seemingly unimpeachable findings of advanced social science research. Phrases such as ‘researchers found,’ ‘the research shows’ and the ‘research is clear’ are sprinkled through the Framework, which states unequivocally: ‘The research is clear that all students are capable of becoming powerful mathematics learners and users.’ If true, this evidence would provide a powerful rationale for adopting the Framework’s proposals, which, given California’s size and prestige, is commonly seen as a model for other states.
A review of much of the research cited, however, reveals that what the Framework describes as ‘clear’ is often actually pretty murky, hotly disputed, or contradicted by other research, misleadingly stretched to cover situations for which it was not intended, or, in some instances, just plain wrong.
Remember, they “reject ideas of natural gifts and talents,” and they reject “the cult of genius.” So apparently all kids can be “powerful mathematics learners and users,” which would seem to be nothing more than a rather larger “cult of genius,” and would surely require substantial “natural gifts and talents.” Or are they tacitly admitting everyone is equally intellectually dull—except them, of course. They’re brilliant, the self-imagined elite uniquely qualified to dictate every facet of life to lesser beings. Hypocritical? Counterintuitive? Just plan stupid? Of course it is, gentle readers. What more do you expect from the advocates of wokitude? Here’s an example:
Consider how the Framework supports one of its overarching principles, namely its rejection of the ‘ideas of natural gifts and talents.’ The text refers to a paper by a New York University psychologist Andrei Cimpian in 2015 to support that proposition, but the only work of Cimpian listed in the footnotes is a paper written with a Princeton University psychologist, Sarah-Jane Leslie.
That paper found that women and girls are commonly discouraged from going into fields that are deemed to require ‘special ability to be successful’ – which can certainly include math. But it says nothing at all about whether some people are born with an aptitude for math or not, or that ‘all students’ are capable of high-level math performance.
‘This isn’t a question that my own research was designed to address.’ Leslie said in an emailed response to questions about the Framework’s citation of her work.
Hmmm. Making citations that aren’t accurate or misstating conclusions are normally considered academic/scientific fraud. But this is California, after all…
In general, the Framework follows a point of view long advocated by Jo Boaler, a professor of math education at Stanford University, the document’s most visible public advocate and reportedly its main author.
Boaler, who is white, has long argued that, as the Framework puts it, ‘the subject and community of math has a history of exclusion and filtering rather than inclusion and welcoming.’ It continues: ‘Girls and black and brown children notably receive messages that they are not capable of high level mathematics compared to their white and male counterparts.’
In other words, the basic premise of the Framework is the same as the larger woke movement, namely that the white male power structure systematically keeps women and non-whites down. ‘Math operates as whiteness’ is the way this has been put by some specialists in math education. ‘One must acknowledge that mathematics is part of a societal system that is inherently racist,’ reads a typical sort of blog post among math educators proposing what they call ‘anti-racist math.’
By all means, gentle readers, take the link and read the entire article. It’s good material, and unlike the CA math framework, well researched, well reasoned and accurate.
What, one wonders, are these “messages” girls and black and brown children are receiving? Are teachers, and particularly math teachers not only racist, but sexist? Do they, from Kindergarten upward, lambast helpless, otherwise brilliant children to convince them they have no math abilities? Are girls, black and brown children denied the opportunity to take math classes? Are they constantly browbeaten and told they can’t possibly succeed at math? What could possibly be the motivation for this—I know: whiteness—and how could it be possible every teacher in every school district in the nation willingly participates in this evil conspiracy?
Or is it more likely many girls simply have little interest in math and other STEM disciplines? Is it remotely possible girls and boys have, not only different physiologies, but different brain structures, and therefore, different interests? There are always exceptions, but do we disregard millennia of human experience? Have we really, in the last 60 years or so, actually continued to discourage girls from math, or as reality suggests, have we done everything possible to encourage them, given them every opportunity, yet still discovered their natural inclinations and interests have a role to play? Woke hustlers are big on making claims of discrimination, but are very poor at producing evidence. Instead, they demand you accept every insane premise. “X is true!” And if you don’t accept their premise and praise them for their brilliance and virtue, you’re a racist.
And what of black and brown kids? What society has ever, so rapidly, transformed itself in terms of opportunity for such as they? What society has ever made it illegal to discriminate? Do not our K-12 schools and colleges bend over backwards, actually breaking laws against discrimination to give black and brown students opportunities their academic performance may not merit? And what role does culture, particular inner city black culture, play? How much academic interest can we expect of kids steeped in a culture that tells them displaying intelligence, being responsible and working hard are “acting white?” And now that we know whiteness is the ultimate evil, how does this encourage black kids to academic excellence?
Keep in mind when I was talking about discouraging kids who I knew would fail in an Advanced Placement—gifted and talented—class, I was not applying anything other than academic criteria. How could a student who was barely passing a normal English class possibly maintain even that level of accomplishment if they were suddenly required to read much more demanding material, much faster, write more and on a higher level than they ever imagined, and cover far more material in general at a much faster pace? Their gender and race had no bearing on it.
We were always willing to make exceptions for kids who, despite past lack of academic performance, really wanted to try, and as long as they did, we did everything we could to help them along. True, most didn’t accomplish as much as the usual AP kids, but they learned far more than they would have in a regular class, and their self-esteem soared. These are the kids any real teacher goes out of their way to help, and as I said, gender and race mattered not at all, though interestingly enough, I tended to have more female than male students of all races in my AP English classes. Guys tend not to catch up in English until college, if they do at all. Perhaps I was biased against males? Thankfully, we know they’re all oppressors and rapists, so my conscience is clear.
This is all a part of the CRT/woke movement. In order to rule, they must have a population less intelligent, much more credulous, than they. Because they’re none too bright, they must do away entirely with merit. Merit must be eliminated in every human endeavor and in every way. The self-imagined elite reserve that for themselves, though they manage to dumb even that down.
But who will be the next generation of engineers? Pilots? Navigators? Scientists? Physicians? Or is merely espousing the correct woke platitudes all that will be necessary. Any movement to deny the best and brightest the academic stimulation they need is societal suicide.
Maybe California deserves it?
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