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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
(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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