Foundation Watch

Math Lessons Are Racist,
as per the Gates Foundation

When you were in 4th grade frantically completing a timed multiplication test, if you were any color other than white, you were being oppressed by the pressure to get it done quickly. Were you penalized for an incorrect answer? Doubly oppressed! Was your grade lowered because your handwriting was illegible on your answers? No doubt, you are now owed reparations!

As ridiculous as this sounds, this is the current reality our black and brown public-school students are facing. Especially if their left-leaning math instructors have bought into the ridiculous ideology that “rigid” (and practical) math instruction is “white supremacist” and has been set up to “oppress” minorities. Since practically everything is “racist” now, including drinking milk and asking your students to speak proper English, why not add math instruction to the mix?

Loony Lessons

You may wonder where teachers have procured this loony idea. Unsurprisingly, the Gates Foundation is behind the push to label most traditional math instruction as white supremacist. In May of 2021, my last year teaching in public school, a free guide was published for all math teachers in California titled Dismantling Racism in Math Instruction: A Pathway to Equitable Instruction . The cover has a picture of a young black boy. The guide should be titled How to Teach Oppressed Black Kids Math or How to Dumb-Down Math So Black Kids Can Pass. I wish this were an exaggeration. The guide’s second and only other picture is of a young black girl—two visual representations of the students the guide is targeting.

As for the dumbing down, the point of the guide is to “dismantle white supremacy by making visible the toxic characteristics of white supremacy culture with respect to math.” But what, pray tell, does the guide deem characteristics of white supremacy? It lists “perfectionism, sense of urgency, defensiveness, quantity over quality, worship of the written word, paternalism, either/or thinking, power hoarding, fear of open conflict, individualism, only one right way, progress is bigger, objectivity, right to comfort,” etc. So, of course, the guide emphasizes that getting the “right” answer in math should not be the focus; it should be understanding the concepts and reasoning. It also emphasizes making sure students learn about mathematicians of color, “particularly women of color and queers of color,” including guest lectures. Math teachers need to find the one queer black mathematician in their community to speak to their class, or their math instruction is seeped in white supremacy, apparently.

Although 80 pages, the guide only has about 10 pages of substance. The rest of the guide consists of extensive reflection questions for the teacher to evaluate how white supremacist (or not) are their math lessons. I’m almost surprised it doesn’t come with a whip for self-flagellation. I suppose repentant liberal white teachers can ease their guilty conscience by kneeling in front of the picture of a black student on the cover.

The Gates Foundation

Back to the Gates Foundation. With a quick scroll to the bottom of the website, you will find that the guide and the teacher training that goes along with it are generously funded by the Bill And Melinda Gates Foundation. One million dollars was given to the Education Trust West an advocacy group based in Oakland, California. The irony is that Bill Gates built his monumental wealth on computer science, a discipline entirely dependent on mathematics and one that might never have flourished if someone else had engaged in similar activism while he was growing up.

While all of this correct-answers-are-racist madness is happening, only about 26 percent of 8th-grade students are testing proficient or above in math. But why stop there? We might as well take that number to zero! Who needs a nation that is proficient in math? Who needs engineers obsessed with perfect calculations or pilots calculating the correct distance for a perfect landing? I’m sure everything will be fine when these students grow up and take their place in the workforce. Everything is being taken over by AI anyway.

Kali Fontanilla

Kali is serving as CRC’s Senior fellow, particularly focusing on topics related to K-12 public education. She has 15 years of experience as a credentialed educator working in public and…
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