A July 19, 2017 NPR interview attributes this logic to (California community college) Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley:
Algebra .. is also the single most failed course in community colleges across the country. So if you’re not a STEM major (science, technology, engineering, math), why even study algebra?
The Chancellor later uses Bob Moses’ success as an excuse to remove intermediate “absract” algebra as an requirement – an illogical step which is the OPPOSITE of Moses’ path. Bob Moses , the civil rights activist, started the Algebra Project, teaching concepts of algebra to black students in the South. He saw the teaching of math as a continuation of the civil rights struggle.
Rates of failure in algebra are higher for minority groups than they are for white students. Why do you think that is? Do you think a different curriculum would have less disparate results by ethnic or racial group?
First of all, we’ve seen in the data from many of the pilots across the country that are using alternative math pathways — that are just as rigorous as an algebra course — we’ve seen much greater success for students because many of these students can relate to these different kinds of math depending on which program of study they’re in. They can see how it works in their daily life and how it’s going to work in their career.
In the next paragraph the chancellor, almost as an aside, correctly identifies that statistics also exists for poorer non-minorities… Which suggests he may be just throwing up incendiary verbiage to attract some media frenzy to his campaign.
The second thing I’d say is yes, this is a civil rights issue, but this is also something that plagues all Americans — particularly low-income Americans. If you think about all the underemployed or unemployed Americans in this country who cannot connect to a job in this economy — which is unforgiving of those students who don’t have a credential — the biggest barrier for them is this algebra requirement. It’s what has kept them from achieving a credential.
An eruption in social media followed, in which an agitated near-nanogenarian critic opined:
Is Racist Algebra the only culprit? Are Evil grammar, diabolical Debate and Elitest Rhetoric in the same hit list?
Algebra is a very structured, even “simplified” form of language-like (read as “English-like” for American students) communication. Hence the dreaded “story problems”. If this eraser-head Academic has his way, then grammar will be the next neo-racist culprit to be banned from education.
This fellow is the “big bad wolf**” of RACISM disguised as a “loving grandma” when he spouts “minorities can’t do math”.
(does he or his favorite minority know what a **metaphor is? I don’t. I get them mixed up with similes and allegories. Then should these abstractions also be ripped from textbooks as federal hate crime concepts?)
I wonder what Benjamin Banneker, George Washington Carver, Booker T. Washington, Condoleezza Rice, Ben Carson, Katherine Johnson or Angie Jones would say to this?
Didn’t even Rev Jessie Jackson1 resist similar LOGIC that argued relevant Ebonics should replace elitest and obsolete English in minority classrooms?
The racial statistics the Chancellor sites exposes failure to recruit quality teachers to low pay in dangerous neighborhoods – NOT their students’ ability to learn
LinkedIn example of a young (minority) industrial-expert who teaches people of all races and age groups
This is not the first time Academics Patrons have demonstrated their “noblesse oblige” to carve out safe space (scholastic ghetto?) for their pet constituents: 1Jesse Jackson and Maya Angelou both resisted this temptation to cull English that the chancellor seems to embrace for Algebra.
Oakland Scratches Plan To Teach Black English – NYTimes.com
The poet Maya Angelou said ”the very idea that African-American language is a language separate and apart” could encourage young black students not to learn standard English. The Rev. Jesse Jackson warned initially that the plan could undermine efforts to preserve the opportunities available to black men and women in affirmative-action programs.
Community colleges help people specialize in intermediate middle-class careers.
The Chancellor stumbles over, yet completely misses the wonderful idea to turn advanced abstract algebra into workable solutions for every class. Instead of making classic and “alternative [math] pathways” into enemies, he should bolster and encourage an academic standard.
“Intermediate algebra” is obviously an intermediate and very necessary step. Therefore the Alternate and the Standard should not be politically divisive, nor mutually exclusive – just as “abstract” Axioms and practical “story problems” are side-by-side in every High School algebra textbook.