Princeton Trades Classics for Diversity?

"Imagine a software engineering class that doesn’t make students learn computer code. That should give you some idea how ridiculous it is that Princeton University is no longer requiring classics majors to learn Greek or Latin. Not zoology students or English majors, but classics students. You know, the folks who study Greek and Latin culture." - Breakpoint

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T Howard's picture

This is about as ridiculous as seminary students not learning Koine Greek and Hebrew and not being able to interact with exegetical commentaries.

There is value in learning these dead languages and being able to go ad fontes. We can read, understand, and evaluate ideas. We can read and think critically ourselves. We don't need to rely on "experts" and gate keepers to tell us how to think or what to think. We've been educated by the best Western Civilization has to offer.

But now, a good and thorough humanities education smacks of racism and white privilege. What a crock.

Mark_Smith's picture

The point of diversifying how mathematics is taught in diverse cultural situations is not to get rid of "right and wrong", or to say "if you want 2+2 to equal 5, that's ok." The point is to address inequities in how students learn. Its goal is also to to the process of learning, not just to jump to the right answer. Read the guidelines that CA put out. Don't just jump on the criticism bandwagon.

Bert Perry's picture

Hey, we've been putting Bible college graduates with little or no experience with Greek and Hebrew into pulpits for how long now?  Before we point fingers.....

And really, the bright side here is that "our tribe" now has the chance to show the world how it ought to be done if only we take care of the basics, no?  It will take a big mindset change (and an increase in pay scales), but this is a golden opportunity here.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Mark_Smith wrote:

The point of diversifying how mathematics is taught in diverse cultural situations is not to get rid of "right and wrong", or to say "if you want 2+2 to equal 5, that's ok." The point is to address inequities in how students learn. Its goal is also to to the process of learning, not just to jump to the right answer. Read the guidelines that CA put out. Don't just jump on the criticism bandwagon.

From "A Pathway to Equitable Math Instruction" that you linked to, in the 1st chapter on "Dismantling Racism in Mathematics instruction":

We see white supremacy culture show up in the mathematics classroom even as we carry out our professional responsibilities outlined in the California Standards for the Teaching Profession (CSTP). Using CSTPas a framework, we see white supremacy culture in the mathematics classroom can show up when:

• The focus is on getting the “right” answer.

[...]

• Expectations are not met.

[...]

• Students are required to “show their work.”

• Grading practices are focused on lack of knowledge.

The pamphlet (guidelines) only go downhill from here, like asking the instructor if he has "critically engage[d] in anti-racist work."  Or how about declaring that certain ways of teaching math "result in using mathematics to uphold capitalist and imperialist ways of being and understandings of the world."  This kind of diversity, we DON'T need.  I don't have a PhD like you do, but I have a degree in Mathematics, and I can say that math is about as equitable and non-racist a subject as there is, and does not need an "anti-racist" slant to be taught well.

Dave Barnhart

T Howard's picture

There has been a push for years (probably since the 60s) to revisit how we view and teach the "literary canon." Some have insisted that if a canon of western literature exists at all it is full of too many white males. These individuals have advocated for the inclusion of more women, people of color, and people of different gender and sexual identities into the literary canon. Harold Bloom, an eminent literary critic, author, and poet, relentlessly fought against this movement, which he called "the school of resentment.” The philosophies underpinning this movement are also fueling the current CRT movement.

The result of this movement in literature wasn't to include but to replace. So, some colleges have replaced Shakespeare with courses on lesbian authors. Some colleges are replacing courses on classical literature (e.g. Greek, Roman, Middle Ages) with courses on twentieth-century afro-latino authors, etc.

Traditional Western literature is now seen as a product of white supremacy culture. Therefore, it must be deconstructed and replaced.

Mark_Smith's picture

dcbii wrote:

 

Mark_Smith wrote:

 

The point of diversifying how mathematics is taught in diverse cultural situations is not to get rid of "right and wrong", or to say "if you want 2+2 to equal 5, that's ok." The point is to address inequities in how students learn. Its goal is also to to the process of learning, not just to jump to the right answer. Read the guidelines that CA put out. Don't just jump on the criticism bandwagon.

 

 

From "A Pathway to Equitable Math Instruction" that you linked to, in the 1st chapter on "Dismantling Racism in Mathematics instruction":

We see white supremacy culture show up in the mathematics classroom even as we carry out our professional responsibilities outlined in the California Standards for the Teaching Profession (CSTP). Using CSTPas a framework, we see white supremacy culture in the mathematics classroom can show up when:

• The focus is on getting the “right” answer.

[...]

• Expectations are not met.

[...]

• Students are required to “show their work.”

• Grading practices are focused on lack of knowledge.

The pamphlet (guidelines) only go downhill from here, like asking the instructor if he has "critically engage[d] in anti-racist work."  Or how about declaring that certain ways of teaching math "result in using mathematics to uphold capitalist and imperialist ways of being and understandings of the world."  This kind of diversity, we DON'T need.  I don't have a PhD like you do, but I have a degree in Mathematics, and I can say that math is about as equitable and non-racist a subject as there is, and does not need an "anti-racist" slant to be taught well.

You deleted all the important parts. Reread what you deleted realizing the point is not the correct answer (because kids all too often try to just get the answer) but how to attack the problem. Then, there are tons of kids who have no idea how to solve the problem. Telling them to "show their work" doesn't help. You have to get down on your knees and work with them. 

These kids have not been raised in an environment conducive with learning. They need to be shown not told.

For example, here is the page linked to by "getting the right answer" that you listed above. Go to page 67 (I can't get the link to auto go there).

 

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Mark_Smith wrote:

You deleted all the important parts. Reread what you deleted realizing the point is not the correct answer (because kids all too often try to just get the answer) but how to attack the problem. Then, there are tons of kids who have no idea how to solve the problem. Telling them to "show their work" doesn't help. You have to get down on your knees and work with them. 

These kids have not been raised in an environment conducive with learning. They need to be shown not told.

For example, here is the page linked to by "getting the right answer" that you listed above. Go to page 67 (I can't get the link to auto go there).

First, there appear to be more than one version of this document.  The PDF I viewed looks to be an older version, and yours appears significantly toned down from what mine shows.

Second, my quote above was from my page numbered 6 (your page numbered 7), which are quite different.  Example from that page:

  • Your PDF: "• There is a greater focus on getting the "right" answer than understanding concepts and reasoning."
  • My PDF: "The focus is on getting the “right” answer."

Clearly, some of the objections resulted in softening of the earlier version.  On to the page you reference above.

  • Your page numbered 66: "White supremacy culture shows up in math classrooms when...There is a greater focus on getting the "right" answer than understanding concepts and reasoning. Upholding the idea that there are always right and wrong answers perpetuate objectivity as well as fear of open conflict. Some math problems may have more than one right answer and some may not have a solution at all, depending on the content and the context. And when the focus is only on getting the right answer, the complexity of the mathematical concepts and reasoning may be underdeveloped, missing opportunities for deep learning."
  • My page numbered 65: "White supremacy culture shows up in math classrooms when...The focus is only on getting the “right” answer. The concept of mathematics being purely objective is unequivocally false, and teaching it is even much less so. Upholding the idea that there are always right and wrong answers perpetuate objectivity as well as fear of open conflict."

Note that the bolded sentence from my copy has been entirely left out of yours.  The rest of your paragraph is missing from mine.  Yours still talks about "perpetuating objectivity" (as if that were a bad thing) and has the quote about capitalism.  Clearly, there has been an effort to eliminate the parts that were the most flagrantly objectionable, but the differences remind me of the differences between the two versions of the so-called "For the People" voting act, and the toned down later version.  The 2nd is significantly less bad, but is still terrible.  The same is true for this document as well.

I'm not a teacher, and in today's public-school environment, would not want to be.  However, as much as it is within my power, I'll be opposing such methods of teaching locally.  Even though my kids are grown, married, and on their own, I've started looking for organizations in my area that challenge the local school boards on teaching rubbish like this, and the more I read about it, the more likely I am to get involved.  I must admit that I'm taking great pleasure in reading about the pushback of parents in various areas against their local school boards on the various aspects of CRT and "equitable instruction."  Even if focusing more on the right answer than on understanding the concepts is problematic (I think they go hand in hand), teaching that way is not a result of "white supremacy culture showing up in the classroom."

Of course any teacher worth his salt will need to take the needs of the student when learning into account, but for the teacher to worry about whether he or she has injected anti-racism, and hasn't denounced capitalism is completely stupid and irrelevant to either the math class itself, or how the student learns the material.

Dave Barnhart

Mark_Smith's picture

I am a teacher. I have been to lots of training in multicultural teaching and diversity. It is required. I know what is meant by all this stuff. What is meant is not "to minimize the right answer." The meaning is to point out that when you write problems people from different backgrounds and educational levels will see different things in your story problem than you intended. The goal is to then realize that the "wrong answer" was not "wrong thinking" but a result of their environment. So, you encourage and direct to a better process of solving the problem.

Then, white kids tend to think "there is only one answer" and they look for that. All they want is the answer, and they don't care about the process. 

The goal is to improve the thinking of both diverse groups and majority students.

Andrew K's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

Then, white kids tend to think "there is only one answer" and they look for that. All they want is the answer, and they don't care about the process. 

I am also a teacher. 

Maybe there's a subject difference here, but... You think white kids are like this? Have you ever taught Chinese kids? 

Reminds me of when people say "white culture" is over reliant on the written word -- not realizing that for classical East Asian cultures, the written word literally has preeminence over the oral, to a degree difficult for us to grasp.

G. N. Barkman's picture

"White kids" don't care about the process.  Hmmm.  Are you saying that "Black Kids" demonstrate genuine concern about the process?   That seems to be the implication of Mark's post.  In my experience, few kids of any ethnic background are usually concerned about the process.

G. N. Barkman

Bert Perry's picture

I've had the wonderful opportunity of helping my kids with math, and it's startling the degree to which they want to just "get the right answer" and don't pay attention to the process.  That attitude has a lot to do with cheating as well.

That said, there's still a lot of "sine qua non" in a lot of fields.  You don't do medicine well without gross anatomy, and you don't do classics well without the languages in which the original documents were written.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Mark_Smith's picture

These are just generalizations for discussion. They aren't rules. Asians never enslaved millions of black Americans, or enforced Jim Crow laws for 100 years, or made it illegal for blacks to attend a white church. That's why Asians aren't the focus.

Look, think what you want. I know you don't care what these people think. But don't be surprised when they win.

 

Andrew K's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

These are just generalizations for discussion. They aren't rules. Asians never enslaved millions of black Americans, or enforced Jim Crow laws for 100 years, or made it illegal for blacks to attend a white church. That's why Asians aren't the focus.

Look, think what you want. I know you don't care what these people think. But don't be surprised when they win.

 

Nope, but they enslaved and colonized and genocided plenty of others in their rich history (then there's the Uyghurs and Tibetans today...)!

Despite what our current postcolonoial mileu tells us, American history is not unique. Before we want to reorient our entire epistemology, we may want to bear that in mind.

Mark_Smith's picture

You solve one problem at a time. Do you deny that life for Blacks in America is harder than for whites in the same socio-economic situation?

The reason for that is the legacy of oppression. Does that mean each white person is individually guilty? No. If does mean we do our part to make things better.

On example of that is changing our teaching styles.

Andrew K's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

You solve one problem at a time. Do you deny that life for Blacks in America is harder than for whites in the same socio-economic situation?

The reason for that is the legacy of oppression. Does that mean each white person is individually guilty? No. If does mean we do our part to make things better.

On example of that is changing our teaching styles.

I adjust my teaching style based on my professional judgment of best practices and my understanding of my students, as well as my own strengths and weaknesses.

Racial preoccupations have never played much of a role.

True, I am an international teacher, so my situation is a bit different.

This makes me curious, though: what would someone preoccupied with American race relations do in my situation? Would they try to find parallel dynamics of oppression within their local society?

Hilariously (in a dark sort of way), most of my students and fellow teachers are more interested in Black Lives Matter on the other side of the world than the minority getting cheated out of his property next door.

Mark_Smith's picture

That is the thing. Everyone personalizes this. Its the system that has been operating for centuries. 

Andrew K's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

That is the thing. Everyone personalizes this. Its the system that has been operating for centuries. 

So you say I need to change my teaching in accordance with contemporary American racial needs.

I ask what that would look like in an international context.

You say that question is part of the problem.

And you wonder why people consider this all suspect.

Mark_Smith's picture

Andrew K wrote:

 

Mark_Smith wrote:

 

That is the thing. Everyone personalizes this. Its the system that has been operating for centuries. 

 

 

So you say I need to change my teaching in accordance with contemporary American racial needs.

I ask what that would look like in an international context.

You say that question is part of the problem.

And you wonder why people consider this all suspect.

Quite frankly I have no idea how to extend anything to the international case... If that's what your point was, I have no idea. Your posts seemed to me like you were using your personal situation to dismiss the white supremacy culture in America.

I am focused on trying to teach black Americans better. To understand them and their issues and situation. 

Andrew K's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

 

Andrew K wrote:

 

 

Mark_Smith wrote:

 

That is the thing. Everyone personalizes this. Its the system that has been operating for centuries. 

 

 

So you say I need to change my teaching in accordance with contemporary American racial needs.

I ask what that would look like in an international context.

You say that question is part of the problem.

And you wonder why people consider this all suspect.

 

 

Quite frankly I have no idea how to extend anything to the international case... If that's what your point was, I have no idea. Your posts seemed to me like you were using your personal situation to dismiss the white supremacy culture in America.

I am focused on trying to teach black Americans better. To understand them and their issues and situation. 

Well, forgive me, but this...

"The point of diversifying how mathematics is taught in diverse cultural situations is not to get rid of "right and wrong", or to say "if you want 2+2 to equal 5, that's ok." The point is to address inequities in how students learn. Its goal is also to to the process of learning, not just to jump to the right answer."

...sounded a lot broader to me than just helping teach black students better.

 

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Here's an open letter about the proposed new math curriculum in California, signed by over 400 math and engineering professionals.  (And the only ones allowed to sign it are Californians.)

https://www.independent.org/news/article.asp?id=13658

This is a fantastic answer to the idea of a "woke" math curriculum, and I hope it's just the beginning.

Dave Barnhart