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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 childrenís 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!)
If you feel strongly about the material and feel that it is an important aspect that you want to teach and your administrator isnít in disagreement, then do it. You are aware of the potential problems it will cause with parents. My only suggestion for you is to type a polite letter explaining why you feel it is important for you to use these statistics and data and similar in your lesson and send it home with your students at the beginning of the school year. I think that neither you nor the parents are absolutely right I can see why you want your students to be aware of such real world examples of data and how this information can tie into your lesson but I can also see the concerns of the parents as well. I am not convinced that using such data will create racial hatred but I see their concern. I myself prefer to not to kick a sleeping dog, I would use other real world data examples that were less controversial, and leave the social justice lessons to someone else.