Part 6 - ANTI-RACISM IN A CURRICULUM AREA - MATHS

In this part I shall be examining the work I did on anti-racism in a curriculum area -

anti-racist maths. Maths is supposed to be a neutral area - the language of science

so I can understand the scepticism of many teachers and those outside the

profession as to the potentially political nature of anti-racist maths. But if we continue

with language as a description, then the language takes on attributes depending on

usage. In the field of race the use of maths tacitly accepts, if not actively promotes,

the status quo, and it is my contention that the status quo is that of a racist society

(as demonstrated in parts 4 & 5). So it is also my contention that caring educators,

who are maths teachers, should try to take an active part in righting the wrong of a

racist society. "Existing structures and practices in schools that have not come under

review are .. likely to disadvantage ethnic minority pupils whether intentionally or not,

and are unlikely to counter racist views and attitudes among any pupils. Educational

practitioners have to intervene - actively - before these inevitable processes can be

stopped. To do nothing is to allow the racism in society to continue to be reflected; for

the teacher there can be no position of neutrality"[Klein p96]. By the same argument

for this curriculum area there can be no position of neutrality.

Before I continue with justifications of the work I want to dispel a myth propounded by

the media and Mrs Thatcher, despite what is said anti-racist maths is maths. When

Mrs Thatcher pronounces provocatively at the party conference in 1987(see speech

in Appendix 6J) that "children who need to be able to count and multiply are learning

anti-racist mathematics - whatever that may be", she is using rhetoric to attack

teachers (as in the rest of the speech) rather than attempting to give an unbiased

opinion. Details and conflicts arising out of the nature of anti-racist maths is one of

the main themes developed in this part of my autobiography, and will be summarised

in the conclusion to part 6.

Let me clarify a position that would not be contended by any of the people I worked

with, each teacher must take a stance on anti-racism - they should intervene. As

Beverley Naidoo is quoted as saying in Klein[p96] "with racism we have to choose -

either to be for it or against it". As Klein herself says, "in schools which have not

taken and sustained an anti-racist approach, ethnic minority children are treated

differently from their white peers in the classroom. This is seldom intentional. More

common is a subtle, vague but persistent difference in teachers' attitudes towards

white and ethnic minority children which informs their interactions at an equally

subtle, even subliminal level" [p127]. To dispel these attitudes was one of the aims of

my work in the awareness training(see part 5).

In maths what was the rationale for the intervention? We were reviewing the work

done in maths with the purpose of countering racist views, and how we did this is

explained in this part of the autobiography. The most important aspect of this work,

for me, is the affect it had on the motivation and achievement of the students. It is my

belief that part of the political rationale of the Inner London Education Authority(ILEA)

in funding this work is that it would remove the discipline problems involving

Afro-Carribean students in schools. Sadly the work did not provide such a panacea,

but it is also my contention that motivation and achievement were enhanced and the

theme of this enhancement will be examined later on and considered in the

conclusion of this part. But what caused this enhancement? Was it because I cared?

Was the material of a cultural nature and so the students felt at home with it or was it

because they were not continually bombarded by material belonging to an alien

cultture which was not only not their own but on occasions actively attacking their

own? And further how many of the students did this material help enhance their

work? These matters will be considered throughout this part and in the conclusion the

enhancement then will be examined in detail.

As a "hardliner" I always want things to happen yesterday, the lack of progress made

in this area is very striking, even now when I look back I am dismayed as to how little

progress has been made and now my disposition is much more moderate(believe it

or not!). What we are dealing with, in racism, is a significant political issue in which

there is much political vested interest and this should never be forgotten but the

personnel involved in this work do function as their own worst enemy. As a theme in

this part I shall examine some of the personal interactions that have happened in this

work, and develop this in the conclusion.

Now to examine these themes in detail. The work began after I had been teaching at

Brixton Comprehensive for two or three years, and I became interested in developing

maths which helped combat the affects of racism on the students. I was asked by the

full-time seconded teachers of the ILEA Anti-Racist team if I would like to join the

maths committee of their team, and I joined.

Most of the people working with the ILEA team were politically active and at that time

I was not. This difference was further exacerbated by the fact that many of them were

active in Trotskyist organisations and as such were extremely forceful in promoting

their political ideology. In addition to this some were members of the Socialist

Workers' Party(SWP) who at that time had a policy of disrupting schools with strikes,

and my school was one in which the SWP had a stronghold(see part 8 on the role of

trade unions). As I have said at that time I was not politically active - and even now I

think their tactics were wrong, and so the continual disruption of education by strike

tactics made me very angry because I saw them as targeting black students whom I

was committed to educating. One could even claim, following the Eggleston report[5]

which says that "racism was shown ... to be characterised not by intention but by

outcome", that the SWP policy of targeting schools was racist - a claim that would get

me shot in some circles. My experience of the reaction of the black community to

groups like the SWP, and even the Labour party, which claim to represent them, is

that black people are generally disillusioned with these groups, and they see the

policies and attitudes of these groups as a different form of patronising racism.

Considering the accepted racism in the UK we can begin to see this by the lack of

desire on the part of black people to participate in the English political system.

The political conflict within the ILEA group also showed itself in the nature of the work

we were doing. We had decided as a team that we would attempt to produce a series

of worksheets and produce a package that we could submit to schools (see Appendix

6A - proposal). The difference of approach could be summed up in two concepts

discussed in part 7 in detail:-

Multicultural Education Anti-racist education.

Klein [p86] states that "it became an accepted view among educators that part of the

'problem' was the omission of anything in the curriculum relevant to these children's

own cultures and backgrounds and that a celebration of cultural diversity would

motivate pupils and 'correct' their perceived 'poor self-image'". If you combined this

educational viewpoint with a deeply-felt commitment at the racial injustice in the

school, and in society, and with a desire to expose racism and counter prejudice in a

non-political way, then you have my standpoint at the time.

Because of my work in the Gresham I knew that "black parents and teachers were

clear on a vital issue; what their children needed was not multicultural education but

equal chances in the schools to receive a good education" [Klein p57]. This notion

brought me into conflict with the group because of my persistence in demanding

exam relevance. Also for me multicultural education never meant the soft option, I

wanted curriculum relevance, together with the position that "making maths real",

through the use of real statistics, exposed racism and countered prejudice; it was

never true that anti-racist maths needed to ignore the syllabus to put across the

issues of equal opportunity.

So for my contribution to the work of the team I was mainly interested in multicultural

education as were a minority; together we compromised and did both which was fine.

I remember one person saying to me that he didn't mind the compromise, he would

wait until I came round; I, of course, vehemently denied that I would come round as

compromise was not in my nature at the time - stubborn adherence to my limited

ideals was the rule for the day. Once I was away from the self-destructive hotbed of

"ultra-left" London politics I did come round; with the awakening of the magazine and

then working in Hove I became committed to a position of both because there was

such a clear need in Hove to combat racism at all levels.

However because the whole area was so politically sensitive(1), even to the extent

where Mrs Thatcher commented on anti-racist maths(see appendix 6J the political

members of the group were never in a position to make direct political statements.

Even the more extreme members of the group were forced to use factual material

and allow the students to draw their own conclusions. But in fact with this work -

exposing racism - that is all you need to do because if you use all the facts, and not

facts intentionally-selected to reflect a bias, the political reality of racism and its

affects in schools become obvious. Perhaps that was what Mrs Thatcher and her ilk

were concerned about, they did not want the facts exposed to students. Overall the

view of the team was very clear, let the students see both sides within the education

system and allow them to draw their own conclusions.

That was what I found. I gave the students the facts, I asked them to draw their

conclusions, and from their own experience they came up with the same political

realities of "the left" in the team - without the nauseous rhetoric and preaching, of

course.

Before I continue with the analysis of the work there is an important political

consideration of Thatcher's speech which has a bearing on the personnel connected

with this work.

Mrs Thatcher's political attack, together with the media onslaught, had further

implications as discussed by Klein[pp155-157] on the National Curriculum.

Klein[p150] states that "the subject working groups(of the National Curriculum

Council - BZ) which developed each area of the curriculum may have taken account

of issues of culture and race when drawing up their orders and non-statutory

guidance as in the case of English, technology, and, to some extent, science. In the

case of mathematics, teachers and schools will have to create their own approaches

for Education towards Race Equality". Possibly the then prime minister's public attack

on 'anti-racist mathematics' in 1988 has been taken to heart by the Maths Working

Group".

Would it have been possible to issue guidance supporting a position of anti-racist

maths? Multicultural issues are a cross-curricular theme under the National

Curriculum, as mentioned the boundaries between these issues are obfuscated.

"There are rich opportunities here to demonstrate that no one culture has the

monopoly of achievements in design and technology"[p157]. This is the guidance

offered in the DesTech area, why couldn't the same guidance have been offered in

maths? To be consistent it should have been, therefore there must be other

factors(see Klein's quote above).

Klein[p145] "recommends that opportunities that arise through curriculum areas such

as ... maths be used to enhance children's understandings or even to challenge

prevailing views". She further states[p165] that her book "demonstrates how the core

subjects of ... maths can all further race equality without in any way undermining

academic rigour". I think this is a suitable point to leave the issue of Mrs Thatcher

when you consider her quote above.

East Sussex was one authority who were interested in trying to promote good

multicultural work but they were frightened by the political profile as a conservative

council. As discussed below in detail when they met a racist backlash they folded and

withdrew their serious funding. The then Prime Minister had flagged that she did not

want serious anti-racist work. Anti-racist maths especially would have been career

suicide for people in positions of responsibility accountable to the government

especially a Maths Working Group.

Now to return to the analysis of the work itself. As a teacher there were two main

points I noticed with the work. The first was the higher standard of work that I got. I

worked with two groups mainly - a CPVE (Certificate for Pre-Vocational Education)

group in the sixth form and a third form group. This CPVE group were all of CSE

grade 5 standard, and were mainly back at school because there was no work for

them. I used the Campaign for Racial Equality(CRE) worksheet with them(see

appendix 6C - my article in Multicultural Teaching). Here the quality of the

percentages was much higher than could be expected typically of such a group.

Sadly when I came to Botswana this work, which was valuable and which I had kept

for a number of years, was thrown out. However if you refer to the worksheet

contained in Appendix 6C I think I can present a justifiable case for the above

statement on difficulty. Remember that these were students whose standard of work

was approximately grade 5 CSE. As a teacher of students of that standard the

percentage work I would ask them to do would be the equivalent of "Find 4 out of 5

as a percentage, find 55% of 200", very contrived examples containing very limited

percentage concepts. Now refer to that part of the worksheet entitled "Commission

for Racial Equality(CRE)" on p45 of the appendix. There is a paragraph quoted from

the Runnymede Trust. The students are expected to extract the information from the

paragraph, and answer questions in the exercise, some difficult comprehension as

well as a higher standard of percentage calculations. Further to this Maxine used

these percentages in her essay on p49 of this appendix(see highlights).

As a later part of the worksheet I asked the class to write an analysis of what the

figures represented, they produced essays of a standard way beyond grade 5 CSE.

The term "cosmetic", in terms of the CRE, is a term which, if given to most students,

would be meaningless but to these students the feeling was part of everyday life even

though they don't go down Brixton High Road looking in the shops and saying that

they think the CRE is a cosmetic, but at least helpful, organisation.

The work they did on the Tea Trade (see Appendix 6D3) showed the same

characteristics. The maths they produced was of a higher standard (than their norm),

and then when I asked them to write essays on multinationals they produced two to

three pages of work which was knowledgeable - for the same reasons as above it

was part of their experience(2)(see Appendix 6D for outline examples of worksheets

including Tea Trade and a paper on possible worksheet packages).

Sadly again the quality of the material in appendix 6D is not good, and does not

completely illustrate what we were trying to do. The worksheets have been

transferred(comms link from a Commodore to an Archimedes - not easily done), and

so they have lost some of their shape. Our material was supposed to be visual so

many of the gaps are for images (positive images) which were cut and pasted into the

spaces. If you look at appendix 6K you will see p20 taken from the ILEA Centre for

Anti-racist Education 1984 Annual Report. This shows the shape of worksheets we

were trying to produce but it omits the positive images approach.

The worksheets in Appendix 6D were a combined approach of a maths working

group as part of the ILEA Anti-racist team. Although we combined as a think-tank I

was the only person who tried the materials in the classroom. To be generous to the

others that might have been because I had a convenient CPVE group but maybe not

- see discussion elsewhere in this part. Because I was trying them in the classroom I

also made the effort with the computer to make the worksheets, hence you have the

material of Appendix 6D.

Another point that this work brought out was how it improved the learning. This CPVE

class was traditionally a group who had little chance of academic success. They were

in school because they couldn't get work - they were passing time. They were looking

for some sort of qualification but weren't expecting much(3). But because the work

was interesting to them they produced some work. To be realistic they weren't

wonderful, there were still discipline problems they still argued with each other -

screaming etc, but the standard of the work was good. This improvement was born

out by another piece of work that I did with a year 3 group. 3GS were a difficult group,

a large group of noisy girls and some boys who were very disruptive - one of the

school's famous groups. They were a predominantly black group. I did pie charts with

them but I used housing figures and how they were allocated to the different race

groups. Housing allocation is a big issue in Brixton, as anywhere else, but it was also

a racist issue. I remember thinking that the group did not discuss the figures with me,

they did not discuss the issue but they worked better. Although they weren't silent

there was a degree of diligence, a feeling that they were interested in their work. And

the standard was higher. Mathematically they were not only using pie charts but they

were drawing pie charts for real data - not the exact data usually rigged for maths

examples where the figures for students going to school strangely have 36 students

in a class in a school with a strong union and maximum class size of 30 (going down)

(see appendix 6E for article written at the time).

"But some teachers, in becoming convinced that what they were doing was right,

began to believe that the old curriculum was inappropriate - that it lacked relevance

for ethnic minority pupils, so causing their pupils to do badly. What they perhaps did

not register sufficiently was that it may have been as much their concern for and

interest in their pupils - which they had so clearly demonstrated through their

curriculum development - that evoked such positive responses to lessons, as much

as the content" [Klein pp26-27].

This demonstrates, in my view, Klein's own evangelism through displacement onto

the shoulders of those involved in classroom work, an evangelical outlook that

perhaps doesn't exist in the teacher; at the same time she brings into question her

own classroom experience. A teacher knows whether the work between one lesson

and the next is better, perhaps convincing sceptics is harder. Let me first consider the

work with 3GS. The short series of lessons, I feel, produced a higher standard of

work as explained above; I, however, was the same teacher. My commitment to work

within the black community was known to these students all that year so it was not

my "concern and interest" which sparked their involvement and improvement. You

could argue that the work itself was different, and that it was that difference which

motivated them, and therefore that motivation would wear off with the newness. With

3GS I cannot argue that, however with the CPVE group most of the work that we did

for a year was this anti-racist maths work, and yet their improvement over the year

was, in my view, consistent. As a classroom teacher I have to ask how she can

possibly make the above statement, it is logically inconsistent for a classroom teacher

not to recognise the difference between improvement through concern and

improvement because of the material, the time and continuity factor prescribes the

logic.

I have not discussed one of the processes of multicultural education which was part

of the compromise that we were able to negotiate with the maths team - and that was

positive images. When we wrote the worksheets we always tried to put pictures of

black people - or black situations - in the worksheets. This, you might say, is a small

point but when every picture concerning everyday life is always white it must register

in some way to black people - as does the absence register when images of black

people are not included in literature, music history etc. Some accuse this of being

token and I remember a discussion with Ronnie Goldstein at SMILE(4). They were

early pioneers of the positive image approach. He remembers he was accused of

tokenism when these images of black people started appearing on cards and

elsewhere in SMILE material but gradually, he said, it was accepted - the norm. An

interesting view of tokenism!

Our maths team held a writing week - a SMILE idea. We produced different materials

(as part of the total - see appendix 6D), but one idea that we discussed in detail that I

would like to work on is History of Maths. Where does maths come from? The

Eurocentric view is Greece but Pythagoras theorem was in earlier use in Egypt.

Egypt could arguably be seen as the culmination of African culture (see appendix 6F

on talk to 3A), certainly there is evidence in the British museum that Egyptian rulers

went to great lengths to have their images carved on non-indigenous ebony. And

there is equally strong evidence there that, subsequently, negroid features have been

removed from these figures as statue after statue has noses and mouths defiled. We

began to feel that this could be an area of work which the group could get involved in

because maths, I think, shows the European appropriation of African knowledge

clearly. Klein[p41] states that "the contributions of African, Chinese and Indic

civilisations and of people of colour to the body of aesthetic and empirical knowledge

is generally ignored, disparaged or simply hijacked".

Soon after this writing week politics struck, and funds began running down. The ILEA

unit began fighting for its life and little work was done until eventually it disappeared.

Here was where the real tokenism existed. Even though ILEA had a reputation for

funding "loony left" schemes there was never any real money to develop the

materials and this was always a constant barrier. How can you seriously talk about

improving schools' attitudes to racism through maths unless you provide the money

to produce and distribute the materials

When I arrived in Brighton I walked into the middle of the East Sussex County

Council (ESCC) multicultural scheme. They had produced a very good policy booklet

and they were talking about moving into module 4 - materials production. Bearing in

mind the problems I had at the end of the ILEA project I thought I'd hit golddust. I was

invited to contribute to a 6 day workshop on multicultural education - the module 4

stage of the beginning of production. ESCC had put money into these 6 days, there

were something like 40 teachers released to participate.

I was asked to present the materials to the maths team(see appendix 6E for the talk

on anti-racist maths). In hindsight the approach is extreme for this group - I was new

to the area and hadn't got used to the idea that on certain educational issues I had

gone back a number of years, and because of that the work was virtually rejected by

the people present - they said the work was too advanced for where they were at.

Sadly my work, and the production of the East Sussex work, did not progress either.

The funds for publishing were not there. Even though the people I presented the work

to found it difficult, the organiser of the work, Roger Howarth, seemed more

interested. But he found me difficult - I was - because whilst he and the group were in

the developmental stage I was looking towards publishing and therefore towards

money. I realised after becoming a bit of a pain in the neck that there was no money.

However I was able to help by contributing papers towards their module 4 approach -

one such paper is included as appendix 6G (there were others).

In retrospect why didn't this project come to fruition when so much money was initially

ploughed into it? ESCC had an excellent anti-racist policy which they described as

their multicultural policy. They decided out of a spirit of democracy and parental

consultation that they would hold a series of parents' evenings to discuss the policy. I

attended one of these evenings held at Hove Comprehensive, and I have to say that

the level of bigotry displayed was a disgrace. I believe a similar sort of reaction

occurred at other schools. In other words East Sussex was not ready for a serious

anti-racist policy, and once these meetings had occurred it would have been political

suicide for a Tory council to continue the level of funding. East Sussex multicultural

policy returned to being a few committed teachers looking after the Bangladeshi kids.

Radical work such as mine would not have gone down well with the party faithful

especially after Mrs Thatcher's comments at the 1987 conference (see appendix 6J).

With regards to anti-racist maths one other thing of note happened in East Sussex. It

is an indication as to the type of personnel and attitude that is met in this field. At the

same time as I arrived at Hove Comprehensive a new adviser, David Sands, arrived

from Waltham Forest. He was producing a booklet for the maths association on

multicultural maths (please see photocopy of his paper in appendix 6H). He was

interested in the work I did, and asked me to submit an article on the work I had

done; this I did (please see appendix 6C). He told me that he reserved editorial

prerogative to amend my work, and I remember feeling angry and aggrieved after the

publication of the article. I didn't attempt to confront him with my feelings but now I

reread what was published it is almost illiterate. Further one or two stands I took

seem very arrogant, I would like to blame him for that but sadly it was the way I

was(am?).

p43 paragraph 2 does not make sense as words are missing and even a sentence at

the end of the paragraph. In paragraph 3 the sentences are out of order although the

arguments about the students' work and the need for funding are there. In paragraph

4 is where I became presumptuous. How did I know the issues "were real for"

Maxine, I didn't ask her?

He also edited the CRE worksheet. It is certainly noticeable that it lacks images, and

the cartoon has features which are not blatantly black; I did stress the importance of

the use of images. The worksheet contains quotes which I didn't use and overall it

has the feel of being too wordy.

In retrospect the stand I took with Dr Sands was not constructive as I'm sure if I'd

made the effort working with him could have produced dividends for the work,

however I do remember clearly having mixed feelings about his motivations, and

because at that time I was too idealistic I wouldn't compromise.

There are two issues I would like to highlight concerning this interchange. My own

attitude was very weak. As with Roger Howarth my attitude to David Sands was far

too uncompromising. Even though Dr Sands' motivations might not have been pure,

he has at least published a significant paper for the maths association, it is quoted in

Antony Cotton's article in appendix 6I. Surprisingly I learnt to compromise by

becoming a political animal and a trade union rep, you have to compromise as a

union representative (see part 8).

But the other issue is also important. My resentment of David Sands concerned the

position he took, he would not take as radical a position as mine. Why? He was an

adviser in East Sussex, if he were to be that radical his employers would look

askance at him. Here we have another type of person involved in the issue, I believe.

Dr Sands realised that if he was careful of the tightrope he walked he could make a

name for himself in the field through his maths association publication whilst still

keeping in with his employers. It is this I see at the root of the editing of my article. It

is only Maxine's work he was interested in, my article was out of courtesy but it

probably contained material that was too radical and was edited out, but the editorial

skills were lacking and the result is the poor quality of the article - as well as the other

poor qualities of my own referred to above. Yet David Sands has produced a booklet

on multicultural maths, and I'm in Botswana!

This issue of classroom materials and classroom trials, in my view, is extremely

important. Even though there were a number of people on the team they all seemed

reluctant to try the material, I am very conscious that the field of race is a powerful

talking shop and reluctantly I feel that my erstwhile colleagues were equally guilty of

rhetoric dementia. I think many saw the politicisation of those they were working with

as being more important than the work in the classroom. When I look at Antony

Cotton's later article (see appendix 6I) I see the same pattern. There are suggestions

for classroom material, an analysis of why it should be done even to the extent of

quoting David Sands and producing a schema but where are the students' work?

One thing I learnt when doing this work is that sound teachers are sick of talkers, they

want to see substance - students' work. Even though many colleagues (of the sound

variety) were not convinced of the theoretical validity of what I was doing when they

saw the results and from the particular students the anti-racist work gained credibility.

Especially in London teachers resent the continuous politicising(as I did at the time),

talking is not action and they kept themselves focussed on the production of work in

the classroom that leads to exam passes. Properly produced materials would have

convinced these professionals but the funding was not available. I think by the end of

my time with the ILEA team, the team too were convinced of the need for proper

packaging with teachers' notes, answers and reproducible masters but the funding

dried up.

Soon after the episode with the maths association and David Sands I met with a

publisher - from Hodder and Stoughton I think; I cannot remember how the contact

was made, who initiated etc. We discussed my work and he sent me example work of

worksheets that they had published. I am now clear that that, ie through a publisher,

is the way forward, unfortunately, though not regretfully(or only a few small ones), I

did not pursue this because time was a big factor in my life; I was more interested in

my political work to devote the required time outside school to make marketable the

work contained here. Perhaps I should contact him now, the gap in the market

appears still to be there!!

Reflections on Papers written at the time

Contained in the Appendices are 4 papers which I wrote at the time of my work. They

are:- Appendix 6A - Proposals

Appendix 6E - Anti-Racist Maths in the Classroom

Appendix 6B - Anti-Racism

Appendix 6G - Anti-Racist Maths - A Talk given to the East

Sussex Multi-Cultural Team

The first contained a proposal, I suspect submitted to the maths team as part of our

on-going work. The second, I suspect, was my submission towards the Annual

Report, the third was a paper submitted to the East Sussex team who were

beginning module 4(explained below), and the fourth I have already discussed in part

above.

On the proposals the most staggering reflection is that nothing has happened, as I

mentioned above Antony Cotton's article(in Appendix 6I) is not as advanced as even

reaching a proposal stage 7 years later. There is one important point concerning the

proposals on packages that has not been discussed, and that is teacher resistance to

this work based on fear.

The average teacher reaction is "What do I know about being anti-racist? Even if I am

inclined towards this work I don't know enough about it." In reality this reaction can be

summed up by the fear that if they try these materials they might make a mistake,

even show their latent unconscious racism. To overcome these fears is one of the

main needs for packages. Make it easy to present the material to the students and

you have achieved one of the objectives of the material. When I gave the materials I

was never quizzed about my views on race. We forget that these students are

children even though they're black. They are learning about maths but they are also

learning about growing up about being black. I cannot remember the incident but I

remember making a mistake; I also remember that although the issue was pointed

out to me it was no big thing, they accepted that I was trying and they forgave

mistakes. The biggest mistake that teachers make for these students is that they

don't visibly try. In retrospect I still see syllabus-related work distributed in packages

making few demands on teachers' time as being the best way of introducing the

material; teachers will learn the issues as they practice.

Appendix 6E simply contains a description at the time concerning the work practiced

in the classroom, I remember being particularly dissatisfied at the repeated theorising

on issues concerning race so I avoided theories and only discussed practice.

Perhaps if there were more who had focussed on the classroom the work would be at

a more advanced stage.

The background to this paper(Appendix 6B) was the East Sussex multicultural

approach. I am not sure of the full history of their work but at the end of Module 3

they produced their excellent policy. Module 4 was implementation ie producing

materials for the classroom, and as I have explained above this did not happen. This

is an overview and is clearly not too detailed, I cannot remember any response.

As to Appendix 6G I have discussed the response to this above, and I have said that

it was considered too advanced even though they were happy with the results, in

reality I think they were scared of the politics.

On reflection I am now stuck. The question of packages is still, I believe, the correct

approach to bringing the work into the classroom, what I described in appendix 6G is

also, I believe, still the correct approach to maths for a caring teacher interested in

this issue. Yet when it was presented to East Sussex in 1988 it was too advanced

and it would probably be described as such now.

So how do I reflect on it? In general the personnel issue is likely to be the same

because their attitude is a consequence of the political climate they are in (because

many are political activists). The political climate has worsened so there is to be little

help from the authorities, it was just circumstance that allowed this positive work to go

on under Ken Livingstone.

I put my frustration to you as a reflection; to you or any educationalist, what can be

wrong with putting real statistics as the basis of your worksheet and asking students

to analyse? If that is considered wrong by the political powers that be, then on

reflection I have to ask "are we in a true education system?"

I will reflect on tactics however. I was not a political activist at the time, and am not

now for ex-patriate reasons, but I did gain experience in the political arena whilst in

Brighton. There is no doubt that many of the people involved in the work used

confrontational tactics because that was the nature of their political armoury.

Confrontation was also my approach but that was based on emotional commitment

and immaturity rather than political commitment. I think now that teasing work into

schools is now the best approach. Taking up the publishers' offer for one thing.

Tacking some of the material into programmes that are inoffensively multicultural

such as the maths material produced by the Wiltshire Education Authority. Working

more with people of position such as David Sands whatever his motivations.

Promoting more of such work in the Maths Associations. Perhaps addressing/talking

to some writers of maths texts. SMILE is established - take up the proposal, not

invitation, (Appendix 6A) of working with the SMILE team, they were interested in the

work we produced, not the politics. Basically we need to lower the flag of anti-racism,

of politics, and make more of an effort towards direct education in the classroom.

Conclusion to Part 6

In my introduction to this part I asked you to consider the following themes as part 6

was developed:-

A) Is anti-racist maths maths?

B) Did the material enhance the learning of students and how?

C) What are the personnel issues in this work?

Making maths real, making it practical, is an increasing plea from industry, that is

exactly what we were doing but in a particular area - race. Although it was not

always easy most of the work could be found as directly matching a concept in the

syllabus. In Antony Cotton's article he quotes particular National Curriculum criteria

that could be used, this was, eventually by consensus, the approach of our team. To

argue that our work was not maths was not based on a realistic examination of our

worksheets or of the work produced by the students, but it was based on political

considerations first, considerations that were isolated from the work that was carried

out.

This work did not enhance the learning of those who had been lost to the system.

Disruptive students and school truants would not become redeemed characters after

lessons in anti-racist maths. But what it did do was improve the work of students who

were half-committed. In the short term project with 3GS there was an immediate

small but noticeable improvement - mainly exemplified by a diligent atmosphere. In

the long term with the CPVE students a better standard of work was achieved by

students often classified as no-hopers. What caused this change? In my view

material was presented which was directed at black students who were a majority in

both classes. Images were black, as were the majority of the students themselves,

and the subject content related to their own culture and daily life. For these reasons

they wanted to learn, they wanted to learn more about themselves; it was work that

they knew had relevance to them because black people were the subject material

either by the use of images or because the data had meaning for black students. I

have no hesitation in saying that for these students whose interest was not strong

their motivation definitely increased. Teachers are always encouraged to use

questions related to the society the students come from, we were only doing this, and

that's why there was an improvement. What about the counter position? Are teachers

who are not following our approach wrong because they are not making their work

relevant to the experience of their own students?

There is a phrase in politics, "the Labour party always manage to shoot themselves in

the foot". Basically most of the people who were involved in this work were

foot-shooters including myself with the attitude I had at the time. The people who

were creating the work were continually arguing for approaches which would alienate

most of the practicing teachers even in Inner City areas. Consider this perspective.

When I went to East Sussex I was considered too extreme and yet I was always an

ameliorating influence on the politics of the team!! Who, other than the political left,

are the people involved in the work? These are careerists who see that there is

mileage in the issue, they see that multicultural education can improve their standing.

So up to a point they will cooperate. The problem, of course, with such careerism is

that careerism is an individual motivation, it is not a motivation for the team nor is it a

motivation for the work (ie anti-racist maths for anti-racist maths sake!). So the work

does not get promoted as much as it should, and this is where I finish. The work has

not advanced from where it was yet the classroom work produced an improvement in

the students. I hope I have demonstrated why.

 

References for Part 6

Klein G "Education Towards Race Equality" Cassell 1993. ISBN

0-304-32387-X.

Rodney Walter "How Europe Underdeveloped Africa" Bogle L'Ouverture 1983

ISBN 09501546 4 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(1) As an example of how appalling the tactics of the opposition were to our work I

remember an incident concerning my own school. The main vehicle of practice for my

worksheets was a sixth form CPVE group. Here there was no set course, the only

criteria were that it has maths and practical. This was ideal for this anti-racist maths

work because that was also the basis we wanted. Because I knew of the sensitivity of

the area I did everything by the book and the head of business studies who was a

careerist and also very experienced in running his course always vetted what I was

doing and he was more than happy as the work fulfiled his requirements - maths and

practical. One day we were visited by moderators from the examining group, and they

came round to my lesson, seemed very interested in the work we were doing, spoke

to the students, told me they liked my work and went away accepting that the work

was satisfactory for the qualification - ie successfully moderated. The next thing I

hear of this was when a member of the ILEA team came to me and showed me a

cutting from a right-wing education magazine run by the Hillhead group and Roger

Scruton in which they described the students as hating the work and being

indoctrinated. Clearly this breaking of professional confidence by one of the

moderators was highly unacceptable. I remember wandering around fuming for days

wanting to do something about this unprofessional invasion of privacy but the head of

business studies did not want to rock the boat and he and others prevented me from

taking action. We on the left are always the ones who are criticised but here we have

long established members of the profession - the Hillhead group itself and the

individual moderator - acting in a manner far worse than any I have heard of on the

left.

 

 

(2) Here I will be accused of politicking but I would like to put it into context. In

Botswana they teach about colonialism, the students history course clearly

talks about imperialism, colonialism etc, and yet the exam board is still

Cambridge. I have even seen one teacher using the Walter Rodney book,

and an attempt to introduce him into an English classroom would almost be a

sacking offence. Yet some would say that the experience of Africans in

England is almost a colonial experience, and that many of the aspects of

racism is a hangover from colonial days.

(3) One of the girls in this group, Maxine, wrote an article for the magazine - OK

it was about hair but the English was fine. How many grade 5 CSE students

could write an article for a magazine - clearly this is a recognition of the

under-achievement that exists.

(4) SMILE, Secondary Maths Individualised Learning Experiment, was a

workbase system with up to 1500 references - most of them cards. This was a

very popular learning system for maths in London because it allowed students

to work while the teacher disciplined the others - cynical? It has worked well.

(5) Keele university were funded by the government to enquire into educational and

vocational opportunities of 15-18 years olds from ethnic minority groups. This report

was not published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office(HMSO) but by the

Department of Education and Science(DES), and then because of public pressure

was produced in a book entitled Education for Some [See Klein pp70-71].

 

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