The good people at the National Review have created a multi-part series to lay bare the cautionary tale that is Ontario’s education system. Sadly, that’s what things have come to, here in Ontario.
We recommend the first instalment, called “How ‘Progressive Discipline’ Turned Ontario Schools into a Battleground,” but we wanted to bring you an in-depth discussion of the second instalment, which is about the battle to force woke ideas into Ontario’s math classrooms.
The battle originated in 2005, when Premier Dalton McGuinty introduced “Discovery Math.” Replacing previous modes of instruction such as drills and repetition of concepts, Discovery Math encouraged students to “invent their own ways of solving math problems,” according to Michael Zwaagstra, a public-school teacher and education researcher with the Fraser Institute.
The results of the new approach were cataclysmic. According to the National Review,
Between 2012 and 2018, sixth-grade scores declined by a fifth with less than half of students meeting provincial standards; third grade was slightly better with only a 15 percent drop.
Even McGuinty’s successor, Kathleen Wynne, had to admit in 2017 that there were problems.
Doug Ford campaigned on rolling back Discovery Math in 2018, claiming he would substitute a “Back-to-Basics” approach instead, but when it came down to it, the Ford government's curriculum update in June 2021 was full of woke math concepts, including advocating that “a decolonial, anti-racist approach to mathematics education” should “make visible its historical roots and social constructions.” Zwagstra wondered publicly at the time whether it was government leaders or government bureaucrats who were driving policy.
Public pushback led the Education Ministry to walk back the most political language, and the premier to announce that Ontarians should “stick with math.” Angry activist teachers littered social media with derisive comments in response.
There is no question that the tentacles of Discovery Math have reached deeply into Ontario’s teaching profession. Toronto's coordinator of secondary mathematics, and president of the Ontario Mathematics Coordinators Association (OMCA), Jason To, released a presentation last September which featured the pyramid of "White Supremacy in Math Education". At the top of this pyramid are examples of “overt” white supremacy, which would be criticized by any reasonable person. At the base is “covert” white supremacy\ including “Eurocentric math curriculum,” “Standardized testing,” “Just stick to math,” “I don’t see colour in my math class,” and “Of course math is neutral because 2+2=4.”
Meanwhile less than half of Ontario's sixth graders meet the provincial math standards, and only 52% of ninth graders met the standard in 2021-2022. According to the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO), these percentages are down by 75% from previous years.
What will it take for the Ford Government to send a crystal-clear message to the educrats that this woke invasion will no longer be tolerated?