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Social Justice as Target

“She began her talk with an engaging moment where she asked audience participants to “Stand Up” for the reasons they entered the teaching profession. One group after the other, we began standing; standing as student advocates, as lovers of the mathematics, as people who had been motivated by teachers in the past, as change agents! Dr. Gutierrez continued through an illuminating hour where mathematics was interrogated concerning the “unearned privilege” it possesses in today’s society…”
–“All Mathematics is Political: Post Session with Rochelle Gutierrez,”  Interviewer Kasele Mshinda

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign professor Rochelle Gutierrez’ scholarship focuses on equity issues in mathematics education, paying particular attention to how race, class, and language affect teaching and learning. Through in-depth analyses of effective teaching/learning communities and longitudinal studies of developing and practicing teachers, her work challenges deficit views of students who are Latinx, Black, and/or Indigenous and suggests that mathematics teachers need to be prepared with much more than just content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, or knowledge of diverse students if they are going to be successful. –from her faculty profile.

And, she and her scholarship are under attack.

NCTE has long been a proponent of social justice in literacy education as spelled out in the 2010 Resolution on Social Justice in Literacy Education and many other resolutions and statements about literacy teaching and learning.  (Search “social justice.”)

The National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics and TODOS: Mathematics for All created a statement which speaks to the verity and importance of social justice work in mathematics.

“NCSM and TODOS understand that moving forward with social justice demands change in institutional structures, teaching and learning environments, community engagement practices, and individual actions…Three components are needed for a just, equitable, and sustainable system of mathematics education for all children. There must be acknowledgment of the unjust system of mathematics education, its legacy in segregation and other forms of institutional systems of oppression, and the hard work needed to change it. The actions taken must be driven by commitments to re-frame, re-conceptualize, intervene, and transform mathematics education policies and practices that do not serve to promote fair and equitable mathematics teaching and learning. And there must be professional accountability to ensure these changes are made and sustained. This is the challenge and work of social justice in mathematics education to do right by our children and move forward together.”

NCTE and the Intellectual Freedom Center have worked with other organizations to support pedagogy in social studies and history as well as science teaching.  And now we have the opportunity to support social justice pedagogy in mathematics.

The journey has just begun, but the good news is that out of the attacks on Rochelle Guitierrez and others the Equity Mathematics Education website has been created, both to document what has happened and, importantly, to give advice from experience to others on what to do and not do when attacked as well as how to support a colleague who has been attacked (paraphrased from Eric Anthony Grollman’s Inside Higher Ed article, “Scholars Under Attack”).