Professor Makes Headlines After Saying Math Education Promotes White Privilege

October 25, 2017Oct 25, 2017

Fox News reports that math education professor at the University of Illinois Rochelle Gutierrez believes that the ability to solve geometry and algebra problems, and the teaching of mathematical subjects, perpetuates white privilege. Her views on the subject were recently outlined in a newly published anthology for math educators.

Her anthology for math educators is titled, "Building Support for Scholarly Practices in Mathematics Methods." In this work, she argues that “School mathematics curricula emphasizing terms like Pythagorean Theorem and pi perpetuate a perception that mathematics was largely developed by Greeks and other Europeans."

In other words, she believes that math education promotes white privilege because it teaches that mathematics was largely developed by the Greeks and other Europeans. She also criticizes the equity in math education and claims that teachers should understand and negotiate the politics outside of the classroom. 

“On many levels, mathematics itself operates as whiteness. Who gets credit for doing and developing mathematics, who is capable in mathematics, and who is seen as part of the mathematical community is generally viewed as white,” she writes. Further, she says mathematics operates with privilege in society, “just like whiteness.”

Breitbart News writes that the faculty at the University of Illinois, including university officials, have been supportive of Gutierrez. In fact, the University of Illinois interim Provost John Wilkin remarked to Fox News that this professor is an admired scholar who has been published in many peer-reviewed publications. 

Furthermore, he states that as with all faculty at his university, this professor has the right and freedom to pursue scholarship and research on important subjects to reach conclusions, even conclusions that some might disagree with. He then claimed that equity and access to education are real issues that deserve academic treatment. 

And indeed, many people do disagree with Gutierrez's findings. She claims that math skills can perpetuate discrimination against minorities, especially if they are not as mathematical as their white counterparts. A "sense of inferiority" can be summoned amongst people of color if they are not very good at math. 

Gutierrez encourages all professors to develop a political "conocimeinto," or knowledge to better prepare them to decide better learning opportunities that work best for all of their students, regardless of their color. 

Breitbart also points out that Gutierrez, who is a supposed expert on math and the practice of teaching it, believes that there is no such thing as objective truth. "Things cannot be known objectively," she writes. "They must be known subjectively."

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