Phi Beta Cons

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Must Math Education be ‘Culturally Responsive’?


Every so often, I read through the e-mails I receive from TC Record, which modestly calls itself “the voice of scholarship in education.” Today, there’s a review of a new book entitled Culturally Responsive Mathematics Education.

In the review, we find sentences like this: “If we focus our energies on a pedagogy that is responsive to, and interconnects with, students’ cultures will we miss the opportunities for a pedagogy that highlights mathematics itself as a social construction which is reflective of particular cultural values and identities?”

I’m tempted to think that TC Record has fallen for a reprise of Alan Sokal’s famous hoax in which he got an article published in Duke University’s journal Social Text claiming that gravity was just a social construct. But probably not. The notion that there is objective reality apart from culture, and which people can understand no matter what their background may be, is now just about dead within the field of “education.”

I wonder if the famously successful inner-city math teacher Jaime Escalante ever worried about being “culturally responsive” when he taught calculus to his Los Angeles students.


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