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  Case: Math and Social Justice! No No!
Recently, I read a report in a national magazine on income levels of different groups of people in the US. The report especially featured income differences between males, females and different ethnic groups. Some of the statistics were very disturbing. For example, women holding the same job as men with same number of years in the job made considerably less money in most of the states. Differences between ethnic groups were even more disturbing. I decided to use these data in my math class with my 5th graders in a lesson on graphing. The purpose was for the students to be able to interpret graphs and create graphs using the information provided. Students enjoyed the lesson and learned some social justice lessons. Apparently a lot of my students talked to their parents about what they had learned in class when they went home. I received notes from about 10 parents the next day simply indicating that what I taught in my math class would lead to hatred among my students and that I should not be wasting their children’s valuable time. Rather, they suggested, I should teach math with no controversial materials. I completely disagree with them and I plan to use similar materials in my other courses as well. However, my principals asked me to send an explanation to those parents. I know my explanation will not stop the complaints. How should I go about this potentially long battle? Or should I take the short cut simply remove such content from my lessons?
Solution: (Rates are posted for this solution!)
I do not think you should take the short cut on this one. I would send home a letter telling parents what you intend to teach (and why). Try to make them understand that mathematical concepts cannot be taught in isolation. In order for students to learn, they need to be able to connect what they are learning to the world around them. I would also state in the letter that if there are any further concerns, you could meet with them. After sending the letter, I would have a discussion with my principal about options for those students whose parents still complain. Parents do have a right to make decisions about their children's education, so there should be a plan in place for those who are resistant.