Excerpts from pages 1, 2 and 4 of


by Bharath Sriraman, Department of Mathematical Sciences, The University of Montana, Missoula, MT

Note from Debbie Niwa: Note the discussion of Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed -- a book used  with La Raza / Mexican-American Studies  in Tucson Unified School District.


"This article examines the fundamental reasons for educational research and practice in social justice from evolutionary, ideological and philosophical viewpoints. The tension between nihilistic and empathetic tendencies within humanity’s evolution is used to reflexively examine the origins and causes of inequity. The relevance of the works of Paolo Freire, Karl Marx, and Vivekananda for contemporary social justice research is examined."


"Although the title clearly indicates this book is about international perspectives on social justice in mathematics education, in my view it is really a book about our attempt to create Meaning....

"It is a basic fact that life around us constantly reveals inequities such as rich versus poor; the educated versus uneducated; those in power versus those without power; wealthy countries versus poor countries; citizens versus guest/transient workers; higher social standing and mobility versus being stuck in abject status quos; affluent neighbourhoods and schools versus ghettos and the remnants of social Darwinism...

"Why do inequities exist in the first place? What are their origins? Are the chapters in this book simply attempts at 'patching up' things that are in essence atomically broken...? ... Or are these chapters, well intentioned attempts around the world to present arguments for the necessity to address social inequities via mathematics education, i.e., to give a deeper meaning to the purpose of education....

"The strictly Darwinian explanation would suggest that certain groups are doomed to perish simply because they are unable to cope with changes occurring in their environment. Unlike other mammals, we tend to hoard natural resources... and at the same time, we also exhibit tendencies towards altruism which are paradoxical and unexplainable in strictly biological terms. In fact, Charles Darwin (1871) in the Descent of Man, posed the question whether the phenomenon of moral behaviour in humans could be explained in evolutionary terms, viz., natural selection. The evolution of social systems (religious, ideological, political) of various kinds are not explainable strictly in Darwinian terms.

"Comte (1972) proposed a stage theory for our social evolution in which humanity moves from a theological stage onto a metaphysical stage onto a 'positive' stage. It is too difficult to explain the meaning of the third stage, but simply put, we reject absolutism of all kinds and we strive for knowledge based on rationality." [pages 1-2]

"...Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’ monumental writings address issues such as exploitation of workers within a capitalistic economic system and the problem of materialism confronting humanity, which would inevitably lead to class struggles and revolutions. Many of the foundational writings of social justice can be traced back to the ideas proposed by Marx and Engels.

"Paolo Freire (1921-1997), the Brazilian educator and social reformist, came of humble backgrounds. His book Pedagogy of the Oppressed (Freire, 1998) is perhaps the most frequently cited Marxist-influenced work in educational literature....

"Freire¹s banking concept holds that students are knowledgeable beings with the intrinsic capacity of creating knowledge with the teacher... It is also important to note that Freire emphasized critical literacy as opposed to functional literacy. ...

The Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD, 2004) defines mathematical literacy as an individual¹s capacity to identify and understand the role that mathematics plays in the world." [page 4]

The Montana Mathematics Enthusiast, ISSN 1551-3440, Monograph 1

2007©The Montana Council of Teachers of Mathematics