The movie “Hidden Figures”, about three African American women who were instrumental in the space program in the 60’s, has garnered lots of “STEM is not just for white guys” types of promotions. (See this, or this or this. There are many more.) Also there are many blog posts by various progressivist/educationist types, praising the movie.
It seems strange to me then that in all this “conversation” about the themes of the film, there is nary a mention that the three women rose to their prominence based on the traditional math education they received. This is the type of math teaching, prominent in the era the women were from, that is so derided and despised by math reformers and given blame for “failing thousands of students”.
Is there an unstated progressivist narrative going on? How does it go again? The women were interested/gifted/talented in math and science to begin with and thus were destined to succeed in it no matter how it was taught? Have I got the right words? Or am I missing something?
I ask this because of this excerpt from an article in The Atlantic about the film:
“Math, in that sense, is in Hidden Figures a tool of meritocracy. It is a symbol of the power of education (chalk being handed from one person to another is a recurring motif in the film), but it is also, more broadly, a metaphor for a world that could be so much better if we would just let everyone, equally, have a say in its improvement. Math’s equations double, in Hidden Figures, as a hope for equality.”
I agree. Interesting that the reform math that passes as education and brings people flocking to NCTM and other conferences to adulate various math reformer as if they were rock stars actually penalizes the very people the reformers/progressivists think they are helping.
Stop me if I’ve said this before: The inequity arises from those who can afford to do so paying for the appropriate education offered at learning centers and the like. And those who cannot afford it being deprived of what they need.
OK. I’ll stop.