November 30, 2023

Teachers Conference Lecture Declares Math a ‘Tool of Oppression’

Math can oppress college students of coloration because of the inequitable system it was developed beneath, in accordance with a slide presentation on the University of Oregon’s 2023 arithmetic convention reviewed by The Daily Signal. 

Oregon highschool math trainer Jered Ratliff delivered a lecture known as “Mathematics as a tool of oppression” on the Northwest Mathematics Conference in Portland on Oct. 14, which was sponsored by the University of Oregon. 

“Recent politicization of mathematics has driven questions about its pedagogy in our schools, but these questions fail to recognize mathematics as a potentially oppressive tool,” Ratliff’s description of the lecture reads. “Mathematics is our single most powerful academic building block, but the power it holds frequently allows it to inhibit discovery and societal good.” 

Ratliff “is interested in exploring intersectionality of social justice and global power dynamics created by math systems,” in accordance with his biographical info on the maths convention web site. 

The math education system in America was developed 200 years in the past when solely the youngsters of white landowners had been educated, in accordance with Ratliff’s presentation.

“It’s not saying that specific questions or standards themselves are racist,” a slide depicting a textual content dialog between Ratliff and a pal from a few years in the past reads. “But if the way we are teaching continually leaves people of color behind, why wouldn’t I want to dismantle the process that is least somewhat responsible for that inequity?”

Ratliff continues to say that “math proficiency doesn’t mean superiority.” Only 30% of Oregon students examined as proficient in math in 2022, in accordance with the Oregon Department of Education. 

Ratliff is concerned with Oregon’s Math Alignment Project, which launched a collection of modules on “equitable math” practices to disrupt “the systemic inequities of schooling.” Discussion questions within the modules encourage academics to think about how their “potential bias” would possibly “inadvertently reinforce inequities.”

In the October presentation’s description, Ratliff stated he would “share about math’s tremendous, often subtle, power that is more often used to stifle than it is to inspire.”

“My dream is to see math fully and mutually used as a tool not to subvert but instead for liberation,” he wrote within the session’s description.

Ratliff advised The Daily Signal he’s in search of methods to “make math better.”

“I’ve always loved math,” Ratliff stated in an e-mail. “I’ve taught it in high school for 16 years. I don’t think it is racist. I do think it’s oppressive to many people, and I believe that is largely because I have yet to find how we have addressed the rapidly changing world by also innovating our math learning, discovery, and education.”

From 1650 to present-day America, mathematical discovery has usually been rooted in American colonialism, chattel slavery, and so-called subjugating techniques, Ratliff stated. He elaborated on this concept in his essay that was the idea of his Northwest Mathematics Conference presentation final month. 

One of the convention slides stated the “U.S. was once at the forefront of innovations benefiting humanity” however “shifted from innovator to subverting and stymying progress.” Thus, America is an “agent of ‘re-oppression.’” 

Ratliff listed three steps to flatten the so-called math hierarchy in his slideshow: “Identify a structure or system with mathematics as its basis,” “identify those in positions of power in this structure,” and “identify those traditionally at the mercy of this structure” as a way to “dismantle the hierarchy.”

The University of Oregon didn’t reply to The Daily Signal’s request for remark. 

Have an opinion about this text? To pontificate, please e-mail, and we’ll think about publishing your edited remarks in our common “We Hear You” function. Remember to incorporate the URL or headline of the article plus your identify and city and/or state.