CUNY Professor Denounces Meritocracy and Color-Blindness In Math As “Tool of Whiteness”

faculty_pictureWe recently discussed how University of Illinois math professor Rochelle Gutierrez triggered a national controversy over her work “Building Support for Scholarly Practices in Mathematics Methods” in which she criticized math classes as a “tool of whiteness.”  Now, CUNY Professor Laurie Rubel has published a peer-reviewed article in the  Journal of Mathematics Education arguing that the concepts of meritocracy and “color-blindness” are ideological precepts that work against minorities.  It is a worrisome trend among academics to challenge even the most objective fields of advancement as requiring a more race-conscious approach.

Rubel is a former high school math teacher who published an article entitled Equity-Directed Instructional Practices: Beyond the Dominant Perspective.

She writes “Teachers who claim color-blindness . . . are, in effect, refusing to acknowledge the impact of enduring racial stratification on students and their families.”   She insists that by rewarding students on their performance — or ability to do math — math  “functions as a tool of whiteness.”

Thus, if a teacher sees all students as equal and simply grades math courses based on actual math, Rubel insists that they are little better than outright racists: “By claiming not to notice, the teacher is saying that she is dismissing one of the most salient features of the child’s identity and that she does not account for it in her curricular planning and instruction.”

There is no debate over the need to work to overcome the barriers to minority students for opportunities in education.  However, math has always been one of the greatest equalizers, no pun intended.  As I discussed earlier, it is a shame to see math treated as a field of privilege when many of us view it as a field of pure intellectual pursuit and bias neutrality.  Either the math is there or it is not.  The race of the mathematician will not change the outcome.  Moreover, the way to fight any bias is to leave “political knowledge” outside of the classroom.

73 thoughts on “CUNY Professor Denounces Meritocracy and Color-Blindness In Math As “Tool of Whiteness”

  1. Now, CUNY Professor Laurie Rubel has published a peer-reviewed article in the Journal of Mathematics Education arguing that the concepts of meritocracy and “color-blindness” are ideological precepts that work against minorities.

    Hokum.

    Laurie Rubel should make an appointment to have her head examined.

    Defectoids such as Laurie should be excised from the nice/comfy tax-payer funded Potemkin universities they infest and forced out into the real world where she can put her ridiculous concepts into action on her own time with her own funding.

    Thus, if a teacher sees all students as equal and simply grades math courses based on actual math, Rubel insists that they are little better than outright racists: “By claiming not to notice, the teacher is saying that she is dismissing one of the most salient features of the child’s identity and that she does not account for it in her curricular planning and instruction.”

    Rubbish!

    Why have university if everyone is to be judged upon their salient features”?

    Student to professor: “I can’t solve this equation.”

    Professors response: “Worry not snowflake you will not be judged upon your ability to solve the problem but on your salient features.”

    How far can students go in the private sector on salient features alone?

  2. Isn’t the need for affirmative action proof of white superiority and colored inferiority?

    Affirmative action should never be debated in America, it should be struck down as unconstitutional by the

    judicial branch and Supreme Court.

  3. Lots of kids (especially girls and minorities) are carefully taught that they can’t understand Math. As a female who was good at it, I spent lots of time just helping friends overcome the fear they had learned.

    This teacher may not have made her case clearly, but there certainly is a race/gender based bias taught to kids at a very early age- and we need to address it!

    • “Lots of kids (especially girls and minorities) are carefully taught that they can’t understand Math.” Your sentence reads as if there is a nationwide conspiracy aimed at keeping minorities down. As women are the vast majority of the educators in public and private schools in the US, the inevitable blame, according to your thesis, lies at the feet of these women. I would argue that PC victimology has been burgeoning in society since the early 80s and the victimology mindset is what is causing the “fear” you are seeing. Psychological research suggests that if women don’t “feel dumb”, they won’t perform that way.

      http://www.pewresearch.org/2006/08/30/women-cant-do-mathor-can-they/

      • “Lots of kids (especially girls and minorities) are carefully taught that they can’t understand Math.”

        Then when it comes to math, I identify as a minority woman. 😉

      • My experiences with those fearful of Math are from the 60s and 70s, -well before your ‘victimology’ origin story. And from what I’ve observed then and now- most Math teachers are men. Kids have to be taught to ‘feel dumb’- so let’s STOP doing it.

        • I grew up in the 70s and 80s in the South and started college as a ChemE major. Never was told by any teacher (or anyone in my community) I couldn’t do math. And all my math teachers were women until I got to university. Anecdotal data are useful for #MeToo stories, but they don’t make for good empirical studies. The problem now is women and minorities are being taught by leftists to feel like they are powerless in the face of the big, bad white man and they need the state to make things right. Which as slorrhs has said, translates to making things easier so people’s feelings don’t get hurt.

        • Actually, kids typically have a single teacher, which is most often a woman.

          By the time they get to middle school, and separate out teachers by subjects, they have already been taught their foundation in math. 44% (high school) to 65% (middle school) of math and science teachers in math and science are women. So it seems really strange that your premise is that teachers, roughly half of whom are women, are teaching girls and minorities that they cannot do math.

          A more accurate assessment is that there might be a problem with the curriculum, and not everyone learns math in the same way. A one-size-fits all approach will always be a mismatch for some kids.

          Overall trends are also sometimes mistaken for absolutes. Women in general have evolved to be more nurturing and communicative, theoretically because they were raising children in pair bonds. However, there are women who have zero nurturing ability or inclination at all, and there are men who have that knack that goes beyond compassion and into the kissing owies realm. In general, girls will naturally choose dolls to play with and boys will naturally gravitate towards sparring games. There are girls who like sparring games and boys who like dolls. There is nothing threatening to the equality or overall value of women or men in these trends. And individuals should always be evaluated individually for their strengths, weaknesses, and interests.

          Progressives believe in social change by fiat. They would force girls to play with erector sets and force them into science.

          Someone who really believed in equality would choose to allow girls and boys to build on their strengths and interests. If a girl shows an aptitude and love of math, nurture that. If she shows interest in dolls and writing, nurture that. Progressives should stop with the quotas, believing that there is only success when an equal number of women are math professors as men are. Or that women who stay home 3 months a year for 3 consecutive years, to have 3 children and take maternity leave, should be paid exactly the same and have the same number of promotions as either a woman or a man who did not need to take time off, and who was there at work, finishing projects. Sometimes, a pay gap is gender bias. Sometimes a pay gap means that women have the freedom to work less, take off more time, work part time, or be a homemaker for a number of years in order to have a family.

          I am a woman whose background was science. Men were a lot easier to work for than women. No one told me I couldn’t do math or science. Quite the opposite; everyone told me I was good at math, including my male and my female teachers. There were more men than women in some of my college classes, but no one ever made me feel I didn’t belong there. The emphasis was on proving myself…in a meritocracy.

          Where I did see an issue was in upper management in the field of science. Affirmative Action placed some women in jobs they were completely unsuited for, which created some resentment. There was this taint – was someone in the job because she earned it or because she filled a quota? Lord, I remember this one egregious example would actually raise her hand during all staff meetings and ask questions so stupid, I would slide down in my seat, in agony over the discomfort everyone was feeling. All. Staff. In front of everyone. Geez, she didn’t even know our mission statement. That just makes it so much harder for the rest of us.

          • Karen S, great post. Here’s the take home message for me:
            “Someone who really believed in equality would choose to allow girls and boys to build on their strengths and interests.”

            That is the crux of the situation. Men and women have different interests. Period. Sometimes they overlap, most times they don’t. Studies with the most egalitarian societies (read: Scandinavia) have shown this in the extreme. If you like something (like math), you work at it. If you don’t like it, the opposite occurs. Better overall grades and larger graduation rates for young women at both the HS and college level shows that females are not being “demoralized” by teachers, although these data say nothing about the actual quality of the education. Further, teaching approaches/styles adopted over the past century+ have been tailored toward girls, further leaving boys out in the cold.

            http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2014/04/girls-grades.aspx

    • Wait. Are you saying that the irrational (education is local), unconstitutional Dept. of Education and the unconstitutional, communistic, lazy, greedy, striking teachers unions failed?

  4. Well the good professor need not worry the kids in the US rank well below the norm in math and science so she and her crew are doing a bang up job.

    • What country have you deemed “the norm?” Apparently it’s one of the only 26 nations that outranked the USA in this category, but I can’t wait to find out which has been given the title.

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