Rico Gutstein is a mathematics education professor in the Curriculum and Instruction department of the University of Illinois at Chicago. He writes and teaches about critical and Freirean pedagogies, and mathematics and urban education policy. Rico has taught middle and high school mathematics in Chicago public schools and is the author of Reading and Writing the World with Mathematics: Toward a Pedagogy for Social Justice (2006). He also co-edited Rethinking Mathematics: Teaching Social Justice by the Numbers (2nd Ed) (2013). Rico is a founding member of Teachers for Social Justice (Chicago) and is active in the movement against education privatization.
My practice and research focus on teaching and learning mathematics for social justice (“critical mathematics”). For me, this means to prepare students to learn and use mathematics to study social reality and fight injustice, so that they can change what they believe is wrong. Because of that, I always consider how these processes within schools and classrooms interconnect with the broader sociopolitical contexts in which we live. This stance leads me to write this blog post by drawing on Fanon and Freire, who always studied the dialectical relationships between phenomena. And, I write it from the perspective of an activist scholar, living and working in Chicago, an often-violent city whose culturally and spiritually strong and resilient working-class communities of color are under the devastating attack of neoliberal capitalism—austerity, school and health clinic closings, massive displacement and gentrification, environmental racism, and much more. If my views seem extreme or constrained it may be because the stark polarization and ever-increasing inequalities are front and center for so many of the city’s residents—injustice is everywhere in the air here.
Fanon, a revolutionary and psychiatrist, analyzed the terrible violence of colonialism inflicted upon Algerians during their war of independence from France (and the psychic damage to the French perpetrators as well). He wrote that ground-down, oppressed people sometimes take out their righteous anger on wrong targets and wreak havoc on themselves and their community. This is beyond tragic. Read more