Photo credit: Bryon Lippincott via Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0

“Ethno-mathematics”? Seattle Schools Weigh Adding Social Justice to Math Classes


Still reeling from a holiday celebrating that genocidal maniac, Christopher Columbus, schools in Seattle are about to dole out another heaping spoonful of how white men, colonization, and all things related to Western Civilization are bad. Very, very bad. Not only did white men and the growth of Western Civilization result in disease, pestilence, slavery, and all manner of human suffering, it also ruined math.

Yes, math. But fear not: the Seattle school district is on top of it and intends to rectify past wrongdoings by “re-humanizing” K-12 math classes, mixing in an ethnic studies approach to multiplication tables.

According to an October 14, 2019, issue of Education Week, a new “ethnomathematics” framework is being introduced, and although it hasn’t been approved yet, the Seattle Director of Ethnic Studies Tracy Castro-Gill expects it will be soon. If and when that happens, which appears more likely than not, math teachers across Seattle districts should be brainwashing children as young as kindergarten by the start of the 2020 school year.

Seattle’s version of an ethnomathematics framework will tap into four pivotal areas, none of which have anything to do with math:

  • Origins:  how mathematical theories are rooted in ancient histories or people and empires of color;
  • Power and Oppression:  how Western mathematics has been used to disenfranchise people and communities of color;
  • History of Resistance and Liberation:  how communities of color were liberated by the use of math, engineering, and technology; and,
  • Reflection and Action: how fostering a sense of advocacy, empowerment, and action helps contribute to the experiences of people in communities of color.

In short, the end game is to teach kids how mathematics has been appropriated by Western culture in an effort to keep the white man’s boot on the throat of poor and marginalized minorities.

To do that, the framework asks patently absurd questions such as, “How is math manipulated to allow inequality and oppression to persist?” and “How can we change mathematics from individualistic to collectivist thinking?” and “When has math been used historically to resist and liberate?” That just skims the surface as progressive education reformers move to re-shape the least emotional, least subjective, and most fact-based subject into just another post-truth social justice agenda.

It would be well within reason to argue that the social sciences have no place in a math class, although the theory of ethnomathematics does presuppose mathematics is culturally dependent. In fact, the original theory behind ethnomathematics, first introduced by Brazilian math professor Ubiratàn D’Ambrosio, dealt with developing culturally sensitive ways of teaching mathematics. The sweeping difference between D’Ambrosio’s theory and the ideology being rolled out in Seattle public schools is that D’Ambrosio initially applied the theory to teaching math in Third World countries — countries where children had little to no exposure to Western culture.

Only in First World America, with all of our liberties, freedoms, and opportunities, could leftists inject racism and oppression into an idea that never contemplated a radical disdain for Western Civilization. The Left took D’Ambrosio’s theory and ran with it — dare I say, appropriated it — tacking on their own theory of “re-humanizing” math to include, as one of the leaders at the forefront of the growing movement, Rochelle Gutierrez, has said, “…the roles of power, privilege, and oppression in the history of mathematics education.”

Gutierrez, a professor of curriculum and instruction at the University of Illinois, College of Education, has stated, “On many levels, mathematics itself operates on 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.” To Gutierrez, math is political, and teaching math is political. And, based on the move to teach students how Western culture has falsely claimed responsibility for the three-sided protractor, so do those in charge of Seattle public education.

If you weren’t aware math had been dehumanized and appropriated by Western culture, you’re obviously part of the white, repressionist, racist problem. Thankfully, public schools in Seattle will at least start empowering (indoctrinating) young Seattlites to overcome the dangerous, oppressive, and marginalizing realities of mathematics, and create another generation of social justice warriors who despise Western culture, yet remain mathematically illiterate.

When advocates of the social justice movement in classrooms, even math classes, take the position that teaching activism is necessary as a tool “…to subvert power, question normalcy and change society as we understand it,” math competency is nothing more than white noise.

Photo credit: Bryon Lippincott via Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0

Lisa Hudson

Lisa Hudson is a founding member of Arizonans Against Common Core and an advocate of classical Christian education and the protection of student privacy. She graduated from Michigan State University School of Law in 1996 and is an active member of the State Bar of Michigan.

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