The 1992 Mathematics Framework for California Public Schools governs, to a considerable extent, the mathematics curriculum in California's public schools. It is a model of mediocrity. The Framework recommends that calculators be issued to kindergartners and used in all K-12 grades; it strongly discourages placing students by ability or achievement; it advocates that teachers do more "facilitating" and less "teaching;" it discourages testing, and promotes portfolios, "authentic assessment," and "holistic scoring rubrics;" it de-emphasizes basic skills and promotes "cooperative work" over individual responsibility. In short, it is the bible of "fuzzy math."Ten years ago, I would have rejected this explanation out of hand.
Why is this kind of mediocrity promoted by so many education professors and education experts? We suggest that it is simply good intentions gone awry, resulting in institutionalized "liberal racism." Liberal education experts fear that minority students can't learn real math because of "cultural differences." They recognize that it would be preposterous to lower standards only for those students while maintaining high standards for other groups. Thus, the education experts lower standards for everyone, with "authentic assessment" replacing hard-core, standardized tests, and so-called "higher order thinking" supplanting basic skills.
The clearest refutation of the racism disguised by the Framework comes from the work of Jaime Escalante, the teacher who was immortalized in the movie, "Stand and Deliver." Mr. Escalante proved beyond any doubt that minority students from poor neighborhoods can do as well in mathematics as any other group. His methods were traditional and "non fuzzy."
HOW EXPERTS DUMB DOWN MATH EDUCATION
Los Angeles Daily News
May 31, 1996
HOW EXPERTS DUMB DOWN MATH EDUCATION
by David Klein and Jerry Rosen
But today, as a classroom instructor teaching "basic" composition, I wonder.
I've mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: college freshmen whose skills are far below where they need to be can be perfectly intelligent and 'smart' when you stick to spoken language.
They can be and they are.
In fact, it's not necessarily possible to tell which students have better skills and which poorer by listening to classroom discussion.
The Cambridge Pre-U courses are a case in point. I gather Cambridge Pre-U is being sold to districts (and to parents) as a rigorous replacement for AP courses that does not require grouping. All kids, at all levels of skill and ability, can take the same course and it's still advanced.
The reason that claim can be made is that the courses -- at least the one I witnessed -- primarily involve Googling (there is no assigned reading), creating group Powerpoints for presentation to the class, and class discussion. (The class I saw required one paper, written at the end of a year and a half of 'study.')
On the day I visited a Cambridge Pre-U class, one of the students strongly challenged a presentation four other students were giving. Every point the challenger made was dead-on.
Afterwards, the principal told us how wonderful the class is because you can't tell the AP kids apart from the non-AP kids.
Then he said proudly that the student who had done all the challenging was a kid who would never have been allowed to take a regular AP course in his school.
Naturally, that got my dander up. A talented student who hadn't been prepared by his school to take an AP course didn't seem like something a principal should be talking about with anything other than embarrassment and regret.
Today I feel a bit differently.
I certainly believe that the student I saw in action should have been prepared by his school to take one Advanced Placement course by graduation. He was headed for college, and that being the case, preparing him for AP was the school's job.
On the other hand, I now know that being smart and capable in speech does not mean being smart and capable in writing. Not even close.
I also know that writing really is thinking in any number of ways. Which means if you can't write....you're not the smartest person in the room.
So, back to Klein and Rosen. It now seems entirely plausible to me that, like me, a large contingent of education reformers has registered the fact that that underprivileged students fare better talking than writing (or doing math).
Education reformers don't have to have decided consciously to tackle the achievement gap by making math into a discussion subject in order to have done just that.