Professor Who Worked On Common Core Tests: Math Education Needs To Downplay ‘Objects, Truth, And Knowledge’

Professor Who Worked On Common Core Tests: Math Education Needs To Downplay ‘Objects, Truth, And Knowledge’

This professor who teaches K-12 teachers is planning 'an insurgency by the people' to use politicized 'math education' to subvert public institutions and American self-rule. It's already happening.
Joy Pullmann
By

A U.S. professor who teaches future public school teachers will “argue for a movement against objects, truths, and knowledge” in a keynote to the Mathematics Education and Society conference this coming January, says her talk description.

“The relationship between humans, mathematics, and the planet has been one steeped too long in domination and destruction,” the talk summary says. “What are appropriate responses to reverse such a relationship?” We can already guess University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign professor Rochelle Gutierrez’s answer, from reviewing her published writings and comments. Her plans for “an insurgency by the people” to subvert public institutions and American self-rule through “ethnomathematics” will knock your eyebrows off your face. Let’s take a look.

Her bio says Gutierrez specializes in teaching future K-12 teachers “forms of creative insubordination” and the importance of infusing math with politics. Because, apparently, American kids are already so good at math they have extra time to spend on indoctrination. Oh, wait.

More Proof Ed Schools Routinely Promote Failed Ideas

Gutierrez is an education professor who also teaches in Urbana-Champaign’s “Latino studies” program, of course. Her CV says she helped write federally funded Common Core math tests and has been on a host of taxpayer-funded committees, including several of the National Science Foundation.

She’s also affiliated with the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, which wrote notoriously terrible curriculum rules that destroyed math instruction in many states before helping form Common Core. She’s helped decide which education professors to grant tenure at more than a dozen public universities, and been given visiting lecture position at Vanderbilt University, which is reputed to have one of the most pre-eminent teaching degree programs.

The most recent “academic” publication listed on Gutierrez’s CV is paywalled, but the second most recent listed is a December 2017 article in the Journal of Urban Mathematics Education, a publication of Georgia State University. Yes, taxpayer-funded institutions are fomenting “research” published under titles like “Separate and Unequal: Students with HIV/AIDS and Mathematics Education,” “Beyond White Privilege: Toward White Supremacy and Settler Colonialism in Mathematics Education,” “Absence of Diversity in Collegiate Upper-Level Mathematics Classrooms: Perpetuating the “White Male Math Myth,” and “Striving Toward Transformational Resistance: Youth Participatory Action Research in the Mathematics Classroom.”

One suspects this may be a collection of people who can’t do math, so they teach people how to make sure nobody else learns how to do math either. I’m not just saying that to be mean. The United States has plenty of experience with attempts to social justice up the math classroom, and it always results in more mathematically inept kids.

If we don’t preference competence over political correctness, kids lose big. An understanding of basic mathematics is crucial to competence in many lucrative jobs, plus an introduction to one of the great mysteries of the universe, as well as centuries of human inquiry. These are kids’ lives and minds we’re talking about here, which don’t deserve to be pawns in somebody’s ideological war for social engineering. But far too often, that’s what they are, and it’s American education’s many interlocking monopolies and cartels that are chiefly to blame, because cartels inherently prioritize tribalism over excellence.

This Is the ‘Mathematics Operates as Whiteness’ Lady

Gutierrez’s December article is, perhaps not surprisingly, more of a blog post that quotes sources such as Medium.com and activist websites. Rather than being scholarship worthy of the name, it is essentially a political game plan for using math classes and teachers to follow the Marxist political playbook in “[d]ismantling White supremacist capitalist patriarchy.”

In it, she details how “Alt-Right” institutions such as Fox News and Campus Reform publicized and simplified some of her previous “scholarship” that made, she says, “two key points: (a) mathematics operates as whiteness when we do not acknowledge the contributions of all cultures, and (b) mathematics operates as whiteness when it is used as a standard by which we judge others.”

This assumes, of course, that whiteness is inherently evil, which rather undercuts Gutierrez’s other attempts to present herself as anti-racism. This also assumes, oddly, that using objective standards is somehow a “white” thing, an assumption I don’t understand at all, given that some of the earliest and most profound mathematical discoveries we know of, which are all based on observing objective and testable relationships, were produced by ancient Egyptians and Greeks. But it seems neither objectivity nor knowledge are Gutierrez’s strong suits.

After right-wing media publicized her writings, Gutierrez, her university, and colleagues received rude emails and voice mails. Of course that’s a genuine shame. Not positively contributing to society should result in people being redirected to more productive employment, not being harangued. And I can see how the experience would warp one’s perception, like highly emotional experiences tend to do.

Nevertheless, this is an utterly reality-detached response: “Some of the email messages sent to me were carbon copied to random students and faculty, thereby inflicting violence upon them, for no apparent reason other than to instill fear or have them question my scholarship.”

Ma’am, get some perspective. Mean emails don’t inflict violence. Not only do numbers have concrete meaning, words do too, although they are more flexible. “Violence” means inflicting tangible physical harm. While hurting people’s feelings can arouse chemical responses, that’s not what violent means. To describe things inaccurately empties words of meaning. That makes them worse at doing their job, which is clear communication.

‘Revolution Should Be the Goal’

Social manipulation rather than clear, objective communication seems to be Gutierrez’s aim, however, starting with her premise that there can be no truth or objectivity, and ending with the inevitable power struggles that follow: “Within mathematics education, we have convinced ourselves that ‘equity’ is a strong enough agenda when maybe revolution should be the goal,” she writes in her “paper.”

Her takeaway from experiencing opposition to her ideas is essentially that she and her fellow professors are not ideologically leftist enough. Gutierrez says the real problem this incident exposed was that too many professors and math teachers falsely believe “our scholarship was neutral or absent from politics.” Instead, she calls not only for “a broadened view of ethnomathematics [sic], but a radical shift in how we do mathematics.”

In so doing, she also exposes the corruption deep inside contemporary American K-12 and higher education. Just check out the things she says are endemic within U.S. academia at all levels (emphasis and bracketed comments added).

When we look to other disciplines, we see that their goals are not simply to have historically oppressed people viewed as legitimate participants in the discipline as defined. They are seeking to radically change the discipline itself, partly through putting the needs, views, and contributions of historically oppressed people first [equality is not the goal, a racial hierarchy with whites at the bottom is]

For decades, ethnic studies programs, departments of English, and even literacy professionals in K–12 schools have been: questioning what counts as the ‘canon;’ expecting to see different kinds of authors/perspectives on the discipline; choosing to teach ‘controversial’ texts; recognizing there is no one ‘truth’ but only interpretations; and rethinking literacies and knowledge.

Perhaps as a result, there is greater infrastructure for such disciplines to deal with backlash [i.e. refuse to change when parents and taxpayers voice their opposition to this kind of education]. See, for example, the National Council of Teachers of English’s Intellectual Freedom Center that supports English teachers under attack for the texts they choose to use. [NCTE also helped write Common Core and was a big Common Core supporter and promoter.]

Encouraging Teachers to ‘Betray Their Institution’

Gutierrez goes on to positively cite instances going back to the 1960s of taxpayer-paid teachers in public institutions using their public positions to deliberately and deceptively disregard the will of the people as expressed through their elected representatives and civic institutions. She presents as examples of “revolution” Mexican-American studies teachers continuing to teach these Marxist, anti-American classes in public schools after state legislators banned the course.

This is far beyond mathematics competence now. This is a war for what kind of philosophy gets to control the country.

She notes students chaining themselves to their desks and organizing school walkouts, of the kind we’ve seen recently when high schoolers protested to retain a more Marxist Advanced Placement curriculum. She says more teachers need to use their taxpayer-provided forums and access to students to foment political “backlash” that promotes her preferred curriculum and politics.

Then, to top it all off, Gutierrez quotes approvingly from what appears to be an Antifa organizing group to call mathematicians and other academics to mimic their behavior to foment this kind of education “revolution.” More academics, she says leading up to this quote, should “seek ways to leverage resources and material support and/or betray their institution to further liberation struggles. An intellectual accomplice would strategize with, not for, and not be afraid to pick up a hammer” (emphasis added).

Um, excuse me, ya’ll, but this is straight up Marxism. Right outta the book. Remember, Marxists are the people who declare they are at war with family, religion, and America. This is far beyond mathematics competence now. This is a war for what kind of philosophy gets to control the country: totalitarianism or self-government.

This is a woman on the public payroll in a public institution encouraging other people on the public payroll to “betray” the public, and quoting groups affiliated with people who start riots to tell teachers they also should “not be afraid to pick up a hammer.” Hm, I wonder why so many Republicans no longer trust higher education. Maybe we don’t want to be forced to pay for people to subvert our God-given rights to choose the rules we have to live under, and want to actually control the institutions we’re forced to fund that shape how our children and future voters think.

That’s not even all. Gutierrez then goes on to say that mathematics has already turned in the direction of being willing to subordinate the field to political concerns.

Many of the mathematicians I know did not shy away from the ‘politics’ [sic] or ask me not to use words like White supremacy when naming the relationship between mathematics and power. I saw a different relationship between mathematicians and mathematics education researchers than what happened over a decade ago to Jo Boaler (Boaler, 2012), whose main opposition came from mathematicians.

[From an earlier part in the paper]: I am not alone in making these connections to mathematics. There is a robust domain of scholarship dedicated to chronicling the relationship between mathematics and power/domination in society stemming back more than 50 years. Moreover, a growing number of scholars have written eloquently about the connections between whiteness or White supremacy and mathematics education.

In the final section of this lengthy blog post masquerading as CV-worthy scholarship, Gutierrez considers ways to control the people who become teachers and mathematicians. “What would a mathematics education scholar look like that serves not the university [paying his salary and ostensibly defining the work he should do in return] but the most vulnerable/dehumanized?”

She suggested developing a list of readings for “decolonizing” math education, then making people read the list who are pursuing math PhDs, getting federal science grants and employment, running math departments, school boards, book clubs for students and parents, reporters, and lawmakers. People pursuing her Marxist project for math education need to think about how to make math graduate students “see the relationship between White supremacist capitalist patriarchy and mathematics.”

It is beyond time for all Americans to understand that, as Gutierrez says, the people running U.S. public education at all levels are at the very least influenced by the overt desire to overturn American-style governance and institutions. She’s not even hinting that here, she’s straight up saying it, and saying that academics as a whole agree.

Polls showing almost uniformly leftist professorships reinforce that assertion. They are already using their control of taxpayer-funded institutions to undermine and overthrow the very country that gave them this power in the first place. That’s chutzpah. It’s also Marxism 101. Neutrality is a facade that provides cover for genuinely sinister ideologies.

Rochelle Gutierrez and her “allies” get that education is not just political, but existential. The Right needs to get this too. And fast.

Joy Pullmann is executive editor of The Federalist and author of "The Education Invasion: How Common Core Fights Parents for Control of American Kids," out from Encounter Books in 2017. Get it on Amazon.
Photo U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Austin Harvill/Released

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