How civil rights pioneer Bob Moses changed mathematics education


Civil rights leader and educational pioneer Bob Moses (1935-2021) passed away in late July. He always viewed his evolving mission from the perspective of citizenship and the educational process needed to achieve and enjoy his blessings.

His starting point is the preamble of the U.S. Constitution. What is strange is that President Ulysses S. Grant’s efforts in response to the reconstruction of the social revolution made quality education a constitutional right. The Republican Congress was tired of reconstruction and did not continue; Grant’s goal has not been achieved. If we are to “make our country”, as Moses and James Baldwin echoed, we must require all Americans to enjoy the constitutional right to receive a quality education.

Bob Moses was inspired and mentored by Ella Baker, 32 years old, and Ella Baker in the 1960 Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee ) Has mastered the art of community organization for more than half a century before its birth. She sees organizers as teachers who promise not to build to improve their own leadership skills, but to cultivate leadership skills for others. She and Moses believed that everyone has leadership potential, but it must be taught. Therefore, they created various forms of civic education and spread it widely. Because their community-centered leadership—not top-down charisma, but bottom-up equal leadership—they call it group-centered leadership. Participants are accountable to each other and hold each other accountable to the values ​​and mission of the group. Group-centered leadership and civic education are designed to ensure the voting rights of African Americans and are based on community and family support, both of which are essential in rural southern regions.

Provided by the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

More than a decade after the Voting Rights Act was promulgated in 1965, Moses realized that the next frontier was economic justice, and the fluency of mathematics and science was a springboard for people of color and low-income whites to become full citizens and fully enjoy civil rights. Rights issues in the 21st century. When Moses finished his doctorate. In the Harvard philosophy of mathematics where his four children started school, he realized that in order for disadvantaged children to master mathematics knowledge, especially algebra, teachers as organizers need to teach mathematics professors like his colleagues and SNCC colleagues. Community organization—— As experiential learning in the community.

It is worth noting that through the active participation and empowerment of students, Moses transformed the “set theory” philosophy of his thesis tutor into a process of algebra teaching. (Sets may be regarded as the mathematical equivalent of human groups.) For example, whether in Boston, the Mississippi Delta, or Miami, students explore algebraic problems by drawing bus or subway routes, and “solve” the problem by reaching the destination. , Just like in a treasure hunt. Self-taught students learn algebra by teaching and learning from their friends while solving real-life problems. These strategies developed into an algebra project, which grew exponentially (in fact) with the support of MacArthur’s “genius” funding. Although it is still not mainstream, in the past 40 years, algebra projects have opened doors and horizons for hundreds of thousands of middle school students in the north, south, east, and west.

inside Algebra Project, Students go through five steps: direct experience, image expression, intuitive expression, structured expression and symbolic expression. Starting from the children’s shared experience, “We asked them to reflect on these paintings based on their shared culture,” Moses in “Basic equation,” “Then form abstract conceptualization from their reflection, and then apply abstraction to their experience. “Students learn about the social construction of mathematics, which is created by “people working together and interdependent.” Interaction, cooperation, and group communication are essential, just like during the Mississippi Freedom Movement. True democracy from the bottom up.

Moses knew that the road to economic justice required a systematic transformation, but organized demand must come from the grassroots, especially the disadvantaged youth themselves.In alliance with the Algebra Project, Moses’ children and their colleagues across the country initiated Youth Project (YPP), which supports a series of experiential learning activities inside and outside the school, including protests and direct actions when necessary. The YPP group is run by young people in a democratic manner, and they join forces with other YPP groups and adult activists to promote broader reforms—not incremental “reformist” reforms, but real transformations. When they promoted statewide and national curriculum reforms, always based on the needs of the local community, aligning with school boards and teachers’ unions or bypassing them, they set their sights on the prize: the establishment of a constitution for quality education (preschool to university) Amendments are regarded as a constitutional right. The arduous process of congressional approval and state-by-state approval will itself provide a huge social laboratory for experiential learning, with YPP and its allies at the forefront and central position.

The amendment movement will undoubtedly raise Americans’ awareness of systemic learning differences and inequalities, as well as the need for creative, holistic solutions that serve every citizen and aspiring citizen. But as we learned painfully from the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments after the Civil War, constitutional reform must be implemented through congressional action and grassroots activism (the two often clash). Complicated issues need to be solved. The most important thing is: what is high-quality education, how to implement it in low-income areas with low tax funds, how to apply it to higher education, how to measure it fairly, how to be accountable to locals, and how to last for a long time?

Bob Moses has always focused on social transformation and is committed to short-term development at the team and individual levels-teaching middle and high school mathematics in Jackson, Mississippi and other places for many years-but he knows that the general fluency of mathematics does not matter. Without constitutional amendments, science will take several generations. He is famous for his powerful eyes. So, figuratively speaking, he saw the real person here with one eye, and the transformation of that person or group of people with the other—the newly empowered citizens are committed to democratizing education and making it everyone The liberation force.


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