Like a fast-growing weed, the tendrils of the movement to re-fashion America “equitably” are reaching into every corner of society. The speed at which the initiative went from urgent discussions between university academics to full implementation across broad swaths of the country is astounding. It is also proof of the brushfire theory of radicalism: simply apply a spark to dry arid thought and watch the landscape ignite.
The latest casualty in the lightspeed transformation of America is accelerated high school math. In a state where Governor Ralph Northam (D) enjoys a high approval rating even after a picture emerged of him in blackface (or was it Ku Klux Klan robes?) and who asserted the right of unwanted newborns to be kept comfortable while they are left to die – perhaps math equity looks like distraction and salvation all rolled into one.
This week the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) announced it would eliminate accelerated math from the high school curriculum until 11th grade “to improve equity in mathematics learning opportunities.” The Virginia Mathematics Pathways Initiative (VMPI) will “empower students to be active participants in a quantitative world,” according to the VDOE website. But one concerned parent from Loudoun, VA, who is reading between the public relations lines, believes that the initiative will actually “lower standards for students in the name of equity.” This parent goes on to say:
“These changes will have a profound impact on students who excel in STEM-related curriculum, weakening our country’s ability to compete in a global marketplace for years to come.”
That is pretty alarmist – but it is an alarm also being sounded by Virginia delegate candidate Mike Allers who asserts that VDOE “didn’t level the playing field – they destroyed it.”
The Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations
The watchword being used to sell this controversial campaign is “differentiated.” Differentiated instruction has been in place in education for years. It is essentially the idea that, given the varying functional levels of achievement within any classroom, lessons need to be tailored to challenge higher achieving students while accommodating the lower-achieving ones. It is an educational ideal that sounds great on paper but is often highly impractical in application. Teachers can only diversify their lessons for a broad swath of learners with so much efficacy. To believe that teachers are suddenly going to make up for having jettisoned accelerated math classes from the curriculum by challenging those high-achieving students now relegated to their rooms with differentiated materials is disingenuous on its face. It’s an institutional lie being work-horsed into selling the dubious and ascendant idea of equity.
There is also the consideration only now gaining traction that the unintended consequence of fighting “systemic racism” is racism itself. Just as the notion that black and brown Americans are somehow disadvantaged and the victims of discrimination by being asked to show picture I.D. when voting – an idea that is transparently racist in its infantilization of these demographics – needing to alter curriculum for these minority groups also insults them with the “soft bigotry of low expectations,” as former President George W. Bush termed it. Mike Allers observes:
“This decision from the VDOE stunts natural growth, choice, and progression for students and is incredibly demeaning, arrogant, and racist in assuming that children of color cannot reach advanced classes in math. The racial achievement gap in schools will never be closed if higher opportunities are not provided for all students while at the same time pushing common core and mediocrity. As long as Common Core and curriculum like it is pushed, civics isn’t taught at younger ages, and economic concepts aren’t introduced earlier, real actual non-political equity will not be achieved.”
Allers references a popular cultural touchstone, Pixar’s Academy Award-winning animated feature The Incredibles when he quotes a character from that film who espouses the same wayward philosophy: “When everyone’s super – no one will be,” grins supervillain Syndrome with sinister intent.
Is this the goal of the nationwide push for equity; to ensure the same outcomes for all with draconian cultural directives designed to raze the playing field completely? It sounds suspiciously like socialism – or communism. But it’s definitely not American.
Read more from Pennel Bird.