Education minister under fire after introduction deleted from Ontario’s new Grade 9 math curriculum

Appears that the substantive aspects related to systemic barriers and inclusion remain while the ideologic reference to “non-Eurocentric mathematical knowledges” has been dropped. Much of math has non-European roots (numerals, algebra etc):

Premier Doug Ford’s government has deleted a preamble to Ontario’s new Grade 9 curriculum that said math “has been used to normalize racism and marginalization of non-Eurocentric mathematical knowledges.”

While the updated syllabus remains unchanged, introductory language for teachers was quietly edited earlier this week.

The modernized curriculum was introduced June 9 as the first step of ending the streaming of students so early in high school. That practice that has been tied to poor outcomes for Black and Indigenous youth.

As first reported by the Toronto Sun on Saturday, the Progressive Conservatives initially approved of a curriculum introduction that said “a decolonial, anti-racist approach to mathematics education makes visible its historical roots and social constructions.”

“Mathematics is often positioned as an objective and pure discipline,” said the preamble to the curriculum, which was made public last month.

“The Ontario Grade 9 mathematics curriculum emphasizes the need to recognize and challenge systems of power and privilege, both inside and outside the classroom, in order to eliminate systemic barriers and to serve students belonging to groups that have been historically disadvantaged and underserved in mathematics education.”

But within the past few days, that entire 124-word paragraph entitled “An equitable mathematics curriculum recognizes that mathematics can be subjective” was deleted.

Sources told the Star that “while the section referenced is not in the core curriculum taught to students, we revised it to ensure there is no confusion when it comes to making sure our students are being taught fundamental math concepts.”

“The curriculum did not change. It continues to educate on cultural understandings of math, of the history of these concepts, and attempts to advance that lens throughout the curriculum. What changed was language in the preamble only,” an official said.

In a statement Wednesday, Education Minister Stephen Lecce’s office said the Tories “ended streaming in the Grade 9 math curriculum — a system that disproportionately affected Black, racialized and Indigenous students — along with launching new and specialized supports to ensure these students graduate, enter post-secondary education and get good-paying jobs.”

But the new president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, which supports destreaming, said the education minister “needs to take responsibility” for the episode.

“It’s time for a mea culpa. If you make a mistake, you have to own up to it,” said Karen Littlewood, who took over the union’s presidency on June 22.

Littlewood said “it seems to be very reactionary” for Lecce to amend the language in the wake of media coverage.

“The preamble really sets the stage for the changes to the curriculum and why it was necessary,” she said.

Despite the editing, the lesson plan still addresses inequities in society.

The revised curriculum emphasizes “there are groups of students (for example, Indigenous students, Black students, students experiencing homelessness, students living in poverty, students with LGBTQ+ identities, and students with special education needs and disabilities) who continue to experience systemic barriers to accessing high-level instruction in and support with learning mathematics.”

“Systemic barriers, such as racism, implicit bias and other forms of discrimination, can result in inequitable academic and life outcomes, such as low confidence in one’s ability to learn mathematics, reduced rates of credit completion, and leaving the secondary school system prior to earning a diploma,” it states.

“Achieving equitable outcomes in mathematics for all students requires educators to be aware of and identify these barriers, as well as the ways in which they can overlap and intersect, which can compound their effect on student well-being, student success, and students’ experiences in the classroom and in the school,” it continues.

“Educators must not only know about these barriers, they must work actively and with urgency to address and remove them.”

Still, the New Democrats expressed concern about the deletion.

“The Grade 9 math program was changed specifically because Ontario had to finally recognize that the existing system treated Black, Indigenous and racialized students inequitably,” NDP MPPs Laura Mae Lindo (Kitchener Centre) and Marit Stiles (Davenport) said in a joint statement.

“It’s pretty clear we need more of an equity and anti-racism lens in schools, not less.”

Source: Education minister under fire after introduction deleted from Ontario’s new Grade 9 math curriculum

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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