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The Capitalists Who Sell Ethnic Studies



After circulating two widely criticized drafts of an ethnic studies curriculum, the California Department of Education must now determine whether to accept a third widely criticized draft this month. The common denominator across all three drafts is that they are based on “critical ethnic studies,” which holds that capitalism is a form of power and oppression and is related to imperialism, White supremacy, and racism. The critical ethnic studies foundation in this program is the principal reason why more than 80 groups and organizations continue to object to one curricular draft after another.

Yet for all of capitalism’s alleged faults, those who sell critical ethnic studies and its cousin, critical race theory, are using the capitalist model, which they criticize, quite well in their own enterprises and organizations. The San Mateo school district has hired an education consulting business to offer two-hour online webinars at $350 per participant to help teachers self-reflect on their journey to becoming anti-racist and to help them “dismantle racist mathematics education.”

Participants receive a toolkit, which lists ways that “white supremacy culture” infiltrates math classrooms. This culture is allegedly problematic because it focuses on getting the “right” answer and on students needing to show their work. The toolkit notes that the concept of mathematics being purely objective is unequivocally false, and teaching it is even much less so. . . . Upholding the idea that there are always right and wrong answers perpetuate objectivity as well as fear of open conflict.” Welcome to the world of ethnomathematics.

No right answer? Hmm . . . well, let’s hope that the engineers of tomorrow, those designing future generations of airplanes, cars, bridges, buildings, and dams, know how to get the right answers. Better to have a bridge remain standing after an earthquake and save lives, even if focusing on the right answer does possibly “perpetuate fear of open conflict,” yes?

The toolkit also offers guidelines, including how to “identify and challenge the ways that math is used to uphold capitalist, imperialist, and racist views.” You mean, like accounting and auditing of businesses? As in the accounting and auditing services that are performed—hopefully getting the right answers—within their own organizations?

Those who advocate for changing math instruction along these lines must believe that it will lead to better learning outcomes for students. There is no question that California’s students need to understand math more deeply, with only 29 percent testing at or above proficiency levels. Sixty-three percent of Asian students are at or above proficiency levels, but this falls to 47 percent for Whites, 15 percent for Hispanic students, and 10 percent for Black students. Clearly, something needs to be done with math instruction for the kids who are struggling. Is ethnomathematics the answer?

The countries with the highest-performing math programs teach math traditionally. Students from Shanghai, China, often place first in international math assessments of students across countries, and the Shanghai kids learn math the old-fashioned way. As in, there is a correct answer, and with marks taken off an exam if proper notation is not used. The United Kingdom recently brought 60 math instructors over from Shanghai to teach.

What is different about Shanghai math? Most math teachers in Shanghai tend to be math specialists, who only teach mathematics. This allows Shanghai students to receive broader and deeper exposures to mathematics than with teachers who don’t have an advanced mathematics background. The Shanghai system, which often is taught in classes of up to 50 students in China, focuses on students mastering concepts so that they can show the entire class how to solve a particular problem. Integrating all students in the process is a key part of instruction. These features of Shanghai math may be best practices that we can copy.

There is no quick fix to help students who struggle with math, but improving math aptitude almost certainly requires additional training for teachers. The investments we need to make in teachers are in their individual abilities to understand math, appreciate math, and know how to apply math to everyday problems in interesting ways in order to be effective teachers.

I suspect that the return on this investment will be much higher than paying for training to eliminate White culture from the math classroom. We spend about $20,000 per child in our K–12 system, including pensions (deferred compensation) and capitalized spending from school bonds. With a 20-student classroom, that is a budget of $400,000 per year, which should be enough to provide funding for this training.

The California Department of Education has less than one month to decide on approving a third draft of an ethnic studies curriculum that remains flawed. The department was granted a one-year extension last year because the first two drafts were unacceptable. It should request another extension now in order to produce a high-quality curriculum that will receive much broader buy-in from Californians.

This will require the curriculum to be based on a broader set of principles than critical ethnic studies and critical race theory. This should be easier to do now, as the critical ethnic studies scholars who were advising the curriculum development have resigned, citing “white supremacist, conservative, multiculturalists,” including the Alliance for Constructive Ethnic Studies and Educators for Excellence in Ethnic Studies for objecting to the three drafts that have been written and interfering with the process.

These organizations are not just saying “no” to what has been developed, they are working to create inclusive, positive, ethnic studies curricula that would enhance student learning and help students achieve the legislature’s original goal, which was to help all students understand and appreciate the remarkably diverse world we all share. They should be heard.

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How Canadian churches are helping their communities cope with the wildfires



As wildfires burn across Canada, churches are finding ways to support their members and the broader community directly impacted by the crisis.

According to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre, as of June 13, there are 462 active fires across Canada – and 236 of them classified as out of control fires.

Whether it’s through phone calls or donations to community members, here’s how a few churches across Canada are handling active wildfires and the aftermath in their regions.

Westwood Hills, N.S.: St. Nicholas Anglican Church

In Nova Scotia, St. Nicholas Anglican Church and other churches in the area are collecting money for grocery cards to give to families impacted by the Tantallon wildfire. 

Right outside of Halifax, N.S., the Tantallon wildfire destroyed 151 homes. More than 16,000 people evacuated the area due to the fire.

The fire is now considered contained, but Tanya Moxley, the treasurer at St. Nicholas is organizing efforts to get grocery gift cards into the hands of impacted families.

As of June 12, four churches in the area – St. Nicholas, Parish of French Village, St Margaret of Scotland and St John the Evangelist – raised nearly $3,500. The money will be split for families’ groceries between five schools in the area impacted by the wildfire.

Moxley said she felt driven to raise this money after she heard the principal of her child’s school was using his own money to buy groceries for impacted families in their area.

“[For] most of those people who were evacuated, the power was off in their subdivision for three, four or five days,” she said. “Even though they went home and their house was still standing, the power was off and they lost all their groceries.”

Moxley said many people in the area are still “reeling” from the fires. She said the church has an important role to help community members during this time.

“We’re called to feed the hungry and clothe the naked and house the homeless and all that stuff, right? So this is it. This is like where the rubber hits the road.”

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Is it ever OK to steal from a grocery store?



Mythologized in the legend of Robin Hood and lyricized in Les Misérables, it’s a debate as old as time: is it ever permissible to steal food? And if so, under what conditions? Now, amid Canada’s affordability crisis, the dilemma has extended beyond theatrical debate and into grocery stores.

Although the idea that theft is wrong is both a legally enshrined and socially accepted norm, the price of groceries can also feel criminally high to some — industry data shows that grocery stores can lose between $2,000 and $5,000 a week on average from theft. According to Statistics Canada, most grocery item price increases surged by double digits between 2021 and 2022. To no one’s surprise, grocery store theft is reportedly on the rise as a result. And if recent coverage of the issue rings true, some Canadians don’t feel bad about shoplifting. But should they?

Kieran Oberman, an associate professor of philosophy at the London School of Economics and Political Science in the United Kingdom, coined the term “re-distributive theft” in his 2012 paper “Is Theft Wrong?” In simplest terms, redistributive theft is based on the idea that people with too little could ethically take from those who have too much.

“Everybody, when they think about it, accepts that theft is sometimes permissible if you make the case extreme enough,” Oberman tells me over Zoom. “The question is, when exactly is it permissible?”

Almost no one, Oberman argues, believes the current distribution of wealth across the world is just. We have an inkling that theft is bad, but that inequality is too. As more and more Canadians feel the pinch of inflation, grocery store heirs accumulate riches — Loblaw chair and president Galen Weston, for instance, received a 55 percent boost in compensation in 2022, taking in around $8.4 million for the year. Should someone struggling with rising prices feel guilty when they, say, “forget” to scan a bundle of zucchini?
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The homeless refugee crisis in Toronto illustrates Canada’s broken promises



UPDATE 07/18/2023: A coalition of groups arranged a bus to relocate refugees to temporarily stay at a North York church on Monday evening, according to CBC, CP24 and Toronto Star reports.

Canadians live in a time of threadbare morality. Nowhere is this more obvious than in Toronto’s entertainment district, where partygoers delight in spending disposable income while skirting refugees sleeping on sidewalks. The growing pile of luggage at the downtown corner of Peter and Richmond streets resembles the lost baggage section at Pearson airport but is the broken-hearted terminus at the centre of a cruel city.

At the crux of a refugee funding war between the municipal and federal governments are those who have fled persecution for the promise of Canada’s protection. Until June 1, asylum seekers used to arrive at the airport and be sent to Toronto’s Streets to Homes Referral Assessment Centre at 129 Peter St. in search of shelter beds. Now, Toronto’s overcrowded shelter system is closed to these newcomers, so they sleep on the street.

New mayor Olivia Chow pushed the federal government Wednesday for at least $160 million to cope with the surge of refugees in the shelter system. She rightly highlights that refugees are a federal responsibility. In response, the department of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada points to hundreds of millions in dollars already allocated to cities across Canada through the Interim Housing Assistance Program, while Ontario says it has given nearly $100 million to organizations that support refugees. But these efforts are simply not enough to deliver on Canada’s benevolent promise to the world’s most vulnerable.

The lack of federal generosity and finger-pointing by the city has orchestrated a moral crisis. It’s reminiscent of the crisis south of the border, where Texas governor Greg Abbott keeps bussing migrants to cities located in northern Democratic states. Without the necessary resources, information, and sometimes the language skills needed to navigate the bureaucratic mazes, those who fled turbulent homelands for Canada have become political pawns.

But Torontonians haven’t always been this callous.

In Ireland Park, at Lake Ontario’s edge, five statues of gaunt and grateful refugees gaze at their new home: Toronto circa 1847. These statues honour a time when Toronto, with a population of only 20,000 people, welcomed 38,500 famine-stricken migrants from Ireland. It paralleled the “Come From Away” event of 9/11 in Gander, N.L., where the population doubled overnight, and the people discovered there was indeed more than enough for all. It was a time when the city lived up to its moniker as “Toronto, The Good.”

Now, as a wealthy city of three million people, the city’s residents are tasked with supporting far fewer newcomers. Can we not recognize the absurdity in claiming scarcity?

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