CHAMPAIGN - A book chapter written by a University of Illinois education professor who contended that mathematics operates as an unearned privilege in society, "just like Whiteness," is attracting a flurry of attention.
Rochelle Gutierrez expressed her views in a professional training series book titled "Building Support for Scholarly Practices in Mathematics Methods," arguing that mathematics teaching is political, and math teachers need political knowledge.
Gutierrez couldn't be reached for comment, but the UI released a statement defending her right to express her views.
"The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is committed to academic freedom," interim Provost John Wilkin said. "Prof. Rochelle Gutierrez is an established and admired scholar in the area of mathematics education."
Wilkin also said that like all UI faculty, Gutierrez has the rights of academic freedom necessary to pursue scholarship and research on important subjects and reach conclusions, "even if some might disagree with those conclusions."
"The issues around equity and access in education are real - with significant implications to our entire educational system," he said.
In the book chapter, Gutierrez said that on many levels, "mathematics operates itself as Whiteness."
"Who gets credit for doing and developing mathematics, who is capable in mathematics and who is seen as part of the mathematical community is generally viewed as white," she said.
Math courses that emphasize terms such as Pythagorean theorem and pi contribute to the perception that math was largely developed by Greeks and other Europeans, she said.
Not only that, Gutierrez wrote, "currently mathematics operates as a proxy for intelligence."
"Are we really smart just because we do mathematics?" she asked.
Gutierrez argued for political knowledge for teaching that helps deconstruct and negotiate "the world of high-stakes testing and standardization."
Teachers with this knowledge understand that rather than just getting kids to perform the same or better on achievement tests, "we should be invested in helping students become the kinds of people they want to be, fulfilling goals they have defined, which can mean different, not same outcomes," she wrote.
Math teachers should be prepared to stand and reclaim their profession, Gutierrez argued.
"Prospective (and practicing) teachers need opportunities to understand the broader education landscape as it relates to capital, identity and power," she wrote. "They need to be able to deconstruct the messages that society sends to us about what is important in learning, teaching and justice."
On Monday, CampusReform.org correspondent Toni Airaksinen, who according to her short biography writes on "liberal bias and abuse on college campuses," reported on Gutierrez's views on math education. Since then, the story has attracted attention from reporters and commentators online.
"To me, it seems like the decision about what to teach in mathematics should be based solely on the standard of what will be most important for students to learn in order to succeed," wrote Katherine Timpf, an online reporter for the National Review.
Gutierrez has taught at the local UI campus since 1996. She focuses on equity issues in mathematics education, paying particular attention to how race, class and language affect teaching and learning, according to her UI biography. -------------------------------------- SIDEBAR PHOTO: University of Illinois education Professor Rochelle Gutierrez. Photo by: Provided
********************************************** -- Jerry P. Becker Department of Curriculum & Instruction College of Education and Human Services Southern Illinois University Carbondale 625 Wham Drive / MC 4610 Carbondale, Illinois 62901