by WorldTribune Staff, September 7, 2021
Students in U.S. public schools are so steeped in social justice and LGBTQ+ pronoun indoctrination that America is losing its dominance in mathematics, three prominent math professors noted in a recent analysis.
Meanwhile, China is focused on merit-based education and is supplanting the U.S. as the world leader in producing students who will go on to careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
The analysis by professors Percy Deift, Svetlana Jitomirskaya, and Sergiu Klainerman (of New York University, Georgia Institute of Technology and University of California Irvine, and Princeton University, respectively) published last month in Quillette noted that social justice initiatives in U.S. schools are undermining America’s ability to compete, given what they consider “the deplorable state of our K-12 math education system.”
The professors noted a “disturbing shift” in U.S. classrooms “from actual mathematics knowledge to courses about social justice and identity politics” has been going on for some time but has become much more egregious in recent years.
“Far too few American public-school children are prepared for careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). This leaves us increasingly dependent on a constant inflow of foreign talent,” the professors wrote.
“The second reason for concern is that the nationwide effort to reduce racial disparities, however well-intentioned, has had the unfortunate effect of weakening the connection between merit and scholastic admission. It also has served (sometimes indirectly) to discriminate against certain groups—mainly Asian Americans.
“The social-justice rhetoric used to justify these diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs is often completely at odds with the reality one observes on campuses. The concept of fighting ‘white supremacy,’ in particular, doesn’t apply to the math field, since American-born scholars of all races now collectively represent a small (and diminishing) minority of the country’s academic STEM specialists.”
So-called diversity/inclusion, the professors noted, “has, over time, transformed into a bureaucratic machine whose goal has gone well beyond fighting discrimination. The new goal is to eliminate disparities in representation by any means possible…This trend, which reaches across many fields, is especially self-defeating in mathematics, because declining standards in K-12 math education are now feeding into a vicious cycle that threatens to affect all STEM disciplines. As already noted, low-quality K-12 public-school education produces students who exhibit sub-par math skills, with underprivileged minorities suffering the most.”
The professors continued: “This in turn leads to large disparities in admissions at universities, graduate programs, faculty, and STEM industry positions. Those disparities are then, in turn, condemned as manifestations of systemic racism — which results in administrative measures aimed at lowering evaluation criteria. This lowering of standards leads to even worse outcomes and larger disparities, thus pushing the vicious cycle through another loop. The short-term fix is a quota system. But when applied to any supposedly merit-based selection process, quotas are usually counterproductive.”
Meanwhile, the professors noted, China “learned its lesson from the Cultural Revolution, when science and merit-based education were all but obliterated in favor of ideological indoctrination,” and “is pursuing a far-sighted, long-term strategy to create a world-leading corps of elite STEM experts…As part of this effort, China is identifying and nurturing talented math students as early as middle school…As visitors to these Chinese universities (including ourselves) can attest, the average math undergraduate is now performing at a much higher level than his or her counterpart at comparable U.S. institutions.”
While acknowledging China is in the grip of a Communist Party-controlled dictatorship, the professors wrote: “We do not wish to gloss over China’s status as an authoritarian country that exhibits little concern for personal freedoms. But acknowledging this fact only serves to emphasize the significance of the shift we are describing: The drawbacks of American education policies are so pronounced that U.S. schools are now losing their ability to attract elite scholars despite the fact that the United States offers these academics a freer and more democratic environment.”
The professors recommend that the U.S. education system reverse course before it’s too late and “prioritize the development of comprehensive STEM curricula, at both basic and advanced levels, and allow outstanding mathematicians and other scientists to assist public servants in their design.”
“Instead of implementing divisive policies based on the premise of rooting out invisible forms of racism, or seeking to deconstruct the idea of merit in spurious ways, organizations should redirect their (by now substantial) DEI budgets toward more constructive goals, such as funding outreach programs, and even starting innovative new charter schools for underprivileged K-12 students,” they wrote.