An Open Letter from over 460 academics, teachers, and business leaders to California’s education and political leaders says inserting politics and social justice into mathematics curriculum will be damaging to students and society.
And it appears the California State Board of Education has received the message. The board is scheduled at its July 14 meeting to back off from its original schedule to adopt the math curriculum framework in December and postponed that action until May of 2022.
“California is on the verge of politicizing K-12 math in a potentially disastrous way. This postponement means the State Board of Education has heard the message loud and clear. STEM leaders don’t want California students left behind by introducing politics into the math curriculum,” says Independent Institute Senior Fellow Dr. Williamson M. Evers, one of the drafters of the Open Letter.
California’s proposed Mathematics Curriculum Framework is presented, the letter says, as “a step toward social justice and racial equity,” but its effect would be quite the opposite—to destroy opportunities for all California schoolchildren, “especially the poorest and most vulnerable,” who always “suffer most” when schools fail in their teaching mission.
“This proposed framework will discourage districts from having advanced classes for gifted students. It’s going to block the rise of talented kids to important roles in society, serving us as engineers, getting rockets in the air and getting bridges built properly,” says Evers.
The Open Letter urges educators to reject the proposed framework which distracts from actual mathematics by having teachers insert “environmental and social justice” into the math curriculum and asks teachers to assign students—as schoolwork—tasks it says will solve “problems that result in social inequalities.” The framework is overtly hostile toward California’s previous goal that students receive Algebra I instruction in the eighth grade or earlier—despite the fact that low-income, Black, and Latino students were the greatest beneficiaries of the state’s pursuit of that goal.
Signatories of the letter include over 460 current and former California professionals in the fields of mathematics, science, engineering and technology, along with venture capitalists, education experts, business executives and educators involved in STEM fields.
“I consider myself a social justice warrior. Limiting access to advanced mathematics is not the way to address social inequity,” wrote one signee of the Open Letter.
California law requires that all state-funded professional development, all training of teachers in accredited schools of education, and all state-adopted textbooks and teaching materials in K-8 be in line with the official frameworks.
Read the Open Letter and the current list of signatories here.