On July 18 in DC, a growing national Alliance “We the People – Math Literacy for All” along with Bob Moses, former Field Secretary for SNCC in Mississippi and actor and activist Danny Glover, held a Public Briefing on Capitol Hill, bringing together students, teachers, principals, school superintendents, researchers, college administrators, and members of the mathematics policy community from around the nation.
WHY? To make a case to the nation: That we have a serious and urgent need for Direct Federal Involvement and Investment to restore educational opportunity and social justice for students across our country who are, every day, being left out of full citizenship and equal access to and full participation in careers and college because they cannot get a mathematics education that prepares them for the global Information Age economy they are living in. The assumption often is that these students simply cannot do this math; we beg to differ. Not only can they do it – they are already doing it in schools and classrooms across the country; we need their efforts scaled up and we need the nation to change its collective mind about who these youth are and what its expectations are for them.
HISTORY STANDS BEHIND THIS DEMAND FOR A DIRECT FEDERAL INTERVENTION:
“We the People” opens the preamble to the Constitution to remind us that our whole, as a nation, is bigger than the sum of its parts. Be reminded that this is not new: in the civil rights movement, it took federal legislation, the Civil Rights Act of 1957, and actions taken by the Civil Rights Division inside the federal Department of Justice to create a watershed to protect former sharecroppers in the south as they lined up to make their case to the nation that they had a right to vote. The problem, and its solution, turned out to be bigger than leaving it to what each individual state was willing to do – the nation had be “united” in its response.
The nation faces such a problem in the 21stc Information Age and its knowledge-based economy. An educational caste system has grown out of inequities tied to race and class, resulting in a nation of unequal educational opportunity, denying millions of our young people their constitutional right to exercise their rights to an education that fully prepares them for full participation in the modern world in which they must live. This emerging global economy requires a level of math literacy which our schools are not prepared to offer every child and without which they will falter, as children, as youth, as parents, as citizens, as adults who need to take care of themselves and their families. We need to stand “united” as a nation to assure that every child has this opportunity to be math literate by 21st century standards. This expectation is not a pipe dream – for decades, since we put a man on the moon and brought him home safely, we have understood fully what mathematics needs to be taught; we simply have left out a set of students and teachers struggling in schools that are disproportionally serving low income communities and communities of color. As we witnessed in the struggle for Civil Rights, only a Direct Federal Involvement and Investment will be strong enough to open up their access to math and assure their right to equal educational opportunity.
Failure of the federal government to act will mean that we as a nation – that “We the People” – are willing to accept inequitable and unjust life outcomes for some of our children and youth based on race, ethnicity, identity, culture, and economic status. SERIOUSLY … ???