A Colossal Failure of Society, and a New Ladder of Opportunity

I’ve been away from this site in recent weeks (too many weeks) while we have planned our way into a move to a smaller town in the mountains of Colorado.  Having moved just last fall from a small town in rural NH we hope this most recent move will help us to begin to feel at home here.

Buying and selling houses, and all the associated planning and packing, does little to slow my thinking about equity and math education however.  The problem is that the writing occurs in my head, in a jumbled mess of sentences, paragraphs and posts which never get sorted out through the process of actually writing them down.  It’s a lot like talking to myself, and begins to feel rather psychotic after a while.  So here I am, finally hoping to sort out some of the jumble.

What follows might not be the post I ought to start back with.  The request for more detail about the dialogue that occurs in Precalculus classes when I use “Essential Questions to Personalize Mathematics Learning” has been on my mind also, and I promise to write that soon.  However, this has been so stuck in my head that I have to start here.

I recently began reading the book The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander.  For those who have not read or heard about this book it addresses the development of a new racial caste system in America in the form of mass incarceration of black men.

In the book Alexander refers to, “some of the differences between slavery, Jim Crow, and mass incarceration, most significantly the fact that mass incarceration is designed to warehouse a population deemed disposable – unnecessary to the functioning of the new global economy – while earlier systems of control were designed to exploit and control black labor.”  The tragedy of this description has really stuck with me.  In this time of employers in all types of STEM fields recognizing the need to diversify their workforce, and when such jobs are regularly being filled by highly trained people from abroad because there aren’t enough US citizens with the necessary knowledge and skills, the fact that millions of people, a disproportionate number of them men of color, are in prison, locked away from participating in society in any meaningful way, is a colossal failure of our society.

I am becoming more and more convinced that a new ladder of opportunity can and must be constructed in this country by developing pathways leading from poverty to jobs in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.