A mirror of “Meritocracy is a ‘tool of whiteness,’ claims CUNY-Brooklyn College education professor”

Meritocracy is a ‘tool of whiteness,’ claims CUNY-Brooklyn College education professor

  • City University of New York (CUNY)-Brooklyn College education professor Laurie Rubel has said meritocracy in the classroom is a ‘tool of whiteness’ 
  • Rubel said that meritocracy incorrectly assumes that hard work always pays off
  • But that ‘ignores systemic barriers and institutional structures that prevent opportunity and success’ for racial minorities, she said
  • Rubel’s article was centered around equity in education 
  • It focused on the role whiteness played for several teachers struggling with connecting to students’ experiences in large urban school districts
  • Her article appears in December’s Journal of Urban Mathematics Education
City University of New York (CUNY)-Brooklyn College education professor Laurie Rubel said meritocracy in the classroom is a 'tool of whiteness' in an article published in December in the Journal of Urban Mathematics Education

City University of New York (CUNY)-Brooklyn College education professor Laurie Rubel said meritocracy in the classroom is a ‘tool of whiteness’ in an article published in December in the Journal of Urban Mathematics Education

A City University of New York (CUNY)-Brooklyn College education professor has said meritocracy in the classroom is a ‘tool of whiteness’ in an article published in December in the Journal of Urban Mathematics Education.

Laurie Rubel, the author of the piece in the peer-reviewed publication, said that meritocracy incorrectly assumes that hard work always pays off.

The truth, according to Rubel, is that equating effort expended with success achieved for everyone ‘ignores systemic barriers and institutional structures that prevent opportunity and success’ for racial minorities.

‘[The] belief that effort is always rewarded [corresponds] to various tools of whiteness, like the myths of meritocracy and colorblindness,’ the Fulbright Scholar added.

Rubel also advocates against ‘color-blindness’ in teaching mathematics.

‘Teachers who claim color-blindness—that is, they claim to not notice the race of their students—are, in effect, refusing to acknowledge the impact of enduring racial stratification on students and their families,’ she said.

‘By claiming not to notice, the teacher is saying that she is dismissing one of the most salient features of the child’s identity and that she does not account for it in her curricular planning and instruction.’

Students are seen here walking through campus at CUNY-Brooklyn College

Students are seen here walking through campus at CUNY-Brooklyn College

The secondary education professor warns against dangers that may arise, however, even when racial differences are noted between instructor and student.

Some instructors in Rubel’s case study acknowledge they were aware of ways they ‘couldn’t relate’ to their students who were of a difference race.

In such a scenario, the CUNY Distinguished Fellow noted that ‘those differences are typically cast in terms of deficit constructions about students, their places, and their families.’

This is one reason Rubel champions place-based mathematics teaching and learning, which Diette Courrege Casey of Education Week describes as ‘when teachers tap the unique history, geography, and culture of a community to help students understand math lessons.’

She also advocates for incorporating social justice issues into math lessons, so long as teachers are aware of and receptive to the experiences of minority students.

This can help mitigate any perceived negativity associated with differences in background, and places the focus back on learning in whatever the actual setting is at that time.

Rubel is an Associate Professor of Secondary Education at Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York

Rubel’s article was centered around equity in education, and focused on the role whiteness played for several teachers struggling with connecting to students’ experiences in large urban school districts.

She did not immediately respond to Daily Mail’s request for additional comments on her work.

Rubel is an Associate Professor of Secondary Education at Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

She is also on the research team for Teaching Mathematics for Spatial Justice (TMSpJ), an organization that focuses on equity in education.

Rubel’s interest in place-based math stemmed form her previous work with New York City mathematics teachers on culturally relevant mathematics methods and practices of teaching, according to her bio onTMSpJ.

Rubel has been a member of the CUNY faculty since 2003.

Prior to that, she taught high school mathematics, statistics and computer science for nine years, in Manhattan and in Tel Aviv.

Rubel has been a member of the CUNY faculty since 2003; Prior to that, she taught high school mathematics, statistics and computer science for nine years, in Manhattan and in Tel Aviv; Brooklyn College is pictured here

Rubel has been a member of the CUNY faculty since 2003; Prior to that, she taught high school mathematics, statistics and computer science for nine years, in Manhattan and in Tel Aviv; Brooklyn College is pictured here

 

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