EdX no longer 'teaching social justice through mathematics'

Toni Airaksinen
New York Campus Correspondent

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  • A course designed to teach high school math teachers to incorporate social justice advocacy into their curricula has been significantly revised after being reported by Campus Reform.
  • EdX has replaced most references to "social justice" with the term "social issues," and has eliminated many of the most-radical elements of the online program, including a primer on "intersectional mathematics."
  • High school mathematics teachers are no longer being taught how to incorporate “social justice” advocacy into their curricula following an outpouring of ridicule.

    Last month, Campus Reform profiled a new online class, designed by Teach for America and offered by EdX, that provides free online colleges classes from top universities such as Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Columbia University.

    "For centuries, math has been used as a dehumanizing tool."   

    [RELATED: University paying students to be ‘Social Justice Advocates’]

    The class, formerly titled “Teaching Social Justice Through Secondary Mathematics,” was aimed at teaching math instructors how to create lesson plans to teach their students about privilege, racism, and inequality using concepts like geometry and ratios.

    The course description originally asserted that blending social justice and math together can help students learn, arguing that the approach would “help students realize the power and meaning of both the data and social justice concerns.”

    Teachers were also to be introduced to the concept of “intersectional mathematics” theory, which states that “math has been used as a dehumanizing tool” for centuries, and that it can be used as a “tool of oppression.”

    Following Campus Reform’s revelations about the class, however, EdX has completely revised the course’s content, replacing most references to social justice in the description with “social issues,” and even changing the course’s title to “Teaching Secondary Mathematics Through Social Issues.”

    [RELATED: U of Arizona to revise ‘Social Justice Advocates’ position]

    While the course formerly told math teachers about “the intersection of math and social justice” using a Venn diagram in Week 1, that graphic has been removed and the page now only refers to the intersection between math and social issues.

    The course also no longer teaches the five main themes of “intersectional mathematics,” which formerly explained how many well-known mathematicians are “educated Western white males” and that “for centuries, math has been used as a dehumanizing tool.”

    The organization has also eliminated a recommendation that participants read an article by Christina Torres, an English teacher from Hawaii, in which she argues that failing to teach students about social justice is a “wasted opportunity,” and that encourages teachers to provide students with the “tools to subvert power, question normalcy, and change society.”

    Although the course is still being taught, the content is substantially different, as most of the original references to social justice issues, both direct and indirect, have been significantly changed or removed.

    [RELATED: DePaul revises speech policies to promote social justice]

    Danielle Montoya, the vice president of communications at Teach for America, praised the original course in an interview with Campus Reform last month.

    “We share the understanding that social justice is recognizing and acting upon our individual and collective ability to create positive change,” Montoya said. “This is one way to give students the tools to be engaged citizens, prepared to contribute to their communities.”

    While reaffirming the group's commitment to "culturally relevant pedagogy," however, Montoya confirmed to Campus Reform that the course had been revised by EdX at the request of Teach for America in order to avoid the appearance of political bias.

    "While we believe the content and approach of the course is strong, we modified language that was subject to politicization and interpretation," Montoya explained. "Teach For America’s work transcends political ideology, and we want to be absolutely clear on that. As the course’s goal is to strengthen educators’ tools and competencies to make math education rigorous and relatable, we made adjustments to the title and language to ensure greater consistency with our intent."

    UPDATE: After this article was published, Montoya commented to Campus Reform on why the changes were made to the course. 

    "EdX partnered with Teach For America to make the changes at our request. As we shared, we are committed to culturally relevant pedagogy that empowers students intellectually, socially, emotionally, and civically," she wrote.

    "While we believe the content and approach of the course is strong, we modified language that was subject to politicization and interpretation. Teach For America’s work transcends political ideology, and we want to be absolutely clear on that. As the course’s goal is to strengthen educators’ tools and competencies to make math education rigorous and relatable, we made adjustments to the title and language to ensure greater consistency with our intent."

    Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen



    Toni Airaksinen

    Toni Airaksinen

    New York Campus Correspondent

    Toni Airaksinen is a New York Campus Correspondent, and reports liberal bias and abuse on college campuses for Campus Reform. She is a junior at Barnard College, and also contributes regularly to The College Fix, USA Today College, Red Alert Politics, and Quillette Magazine. She formerly held a post with the Columbia Spectator and has been featured on Fox News and on the Drudge Report.

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