Frequently Searched

New ‘Reparations Math’ Is Coming to a Public School Near You

May 30, 2023

The following op-ed was originally published by National Review:

Sure, only a third of American eighth graders are “proficient” in reading, just a quarter in math, and barely one in ten when it comes to U.S. history. But now, high-school students near you may get to spend up to seven weeks of class time asking “How does white rage fuel the racial wealth gap?” before lobbying their peers on what model “the U.S. should use to determine and provide monetary” reparations to descendants of slaves.

Indeed, last week, the same minds who brought you prolonged school shutdowns extracted nearly $200 billion from taxpayers in Covid slush funds, unleashed unprecedented learning loss, and triggered physical and mental-health crises among students rolled out their latest bright idea to revolutionize classrooms around the country: “reparations math.”

The fruit of several years’ work, this latest classroom innovation traces back to the National Education Association (NEA) — the nation’s largest teachers’ union, which in 2019 promised to “collaborate and partner with organizations and individuals” to “push reparations for descendants of enslaved Africans in the United States and to involve educators, students, and communities in the discussions around support for reparations.”

To advance that goal, the Pulitzer Center, a curriculum partner of the New York Times’ 1619 Project, rolled out “Understanding the Racial Wealth Gap,” a suite of lesson plans in 2022 for teachers nationwide to sprinkle into their classroom curricula. Advertised to teachers as enough to filling “2–3 weeks” of programming, the lesson plans focused on two “essential questions”: “How does white rage fuel the racial wealth gap?” and “What are ways that the United States could begin to repair the harm of enslavement, Jim Crow, and other forms of wealth theft from Black Americans?”

Flanked by other “guiding questions” — including “What patterns do we notice about violence and terrorism by White Americans against the Black middle class?” “How is American Capitalism more brutal than other forms?” and “What are reparations and are they actually possible in the U.S.?” — the 2022 suite of lessons seemed to have taken the NEA’s marching orders to full speed.

But it turns out they were just getting started, and last week, the Pulitzer Center’s “1619 Project Education Materials Collection” debuted a follow-up suite of lessons under the banner “Reparations Math and Reparations History,” a “3–4 week” (“15 class period”) tour through pro-reparations programming, all culminating in a mandatory final project in which students will “share their research into the lasting impacts of slavery on the wealth gap for African Americans, and their cases for reparations to descendents of enslaved Africans and African Americans,” including “what math function the U.S. should use to determine and provide monetary preparations [sic].”

Naturally, not a single one of the resources presented to students in the lesson-plan packet questions, much less rejects, the idea of reparations. Rather, students will be functionally forced to advocate on behalf of a preferred model of reparations simply to meet the criteria of the final project.

The reparations and wealth-gap units combined make up nearly two months of class programming, as they are pegged to satisfy various standards not only for Common Core Math and English Language Arts but apparently also for an “Emancipatory Competency #5,” which asks, “Can you participate in social actions which promote peace, police accountability, immigration rights, workers rights, and/or educational equity?” And they can stretch far beyond that when paired with the 1619 Project’s other brand-new lesson-plan titles, such as that of the five-week “Reading as Resistance” unit.

The new lesson plans are primed to flood schools through the same delivery strategy deployed with the original 1619 Project curriculum materials. Indeed, as John Murawski of RealClearInvestigations found, the initial 1619 Project content reached “more than 3,500 classrooms in all 50 states” within five months of the project’s release, despite being formally approved by only five districts at the time. As he alerted parents, the materials were “mostly being used as supplemental, optional classroom teaching material. By and large, school systems are adopting the project by administrative fiat, not through a public textbook review process.”

That is to say, rather than battling in public to win official adoption at the school-board level in most cases, the Pulitzer Center simply slipped its materials directly into the hands of school staff.

The new “Reparations Math” lessons, which have already been piloted by educators associated with the 1619 Project Education Network, are now primed to follow the same blueprint, saturating schools in red and blue states alike via distribution directly to educators via the Pulitzer’s website. Meanwhile, districts will remain free to tell concerned parents that no such materials have been officially adopted as part of their curriculum.

It is for this reason, on top of others, that state lawmakers who are serious about stopping the hijacking of K–12 classrooms by radical political activists must adopt robust online-curriculum-transparency legislation modeled after the Academic Transparency Act. Pioneered by the Goldwater Institute, where I work, this measure would require schools to post online a list of the specific learning materials used in class, whether officially adopted or not.

Parents deserve to know — before they have to make an enrollment decision for their child — which schools are promoting actual literacy, numeracy, and constitutionally grounded civic education, and which are pushing nakedly political pet projects like “Reparations Math.”

Matt Beienburg is Director of Education Policy at the Goldwater Institute and director of the institute’s Van Sittert Center for Constitutional Advocacy.



More on this issue

Donate Now

Help all Americans live freer, happier lives. Join the Goldwater Institute as we defend and strengthen freedom in all 50 states.

Donate Now

Since 1988, the Goldwater Institute has been in the liberty business — defending and promoting freedom, and achieving more than 400 victories in all 50 states. Donate today to help support our mission.

We Protect Your Rights

Our attorneys defend individual rights and protect those who cannot protect themselves.

Need Help? Submit a case.

Get Connected to Goldwater

Sign up for the latest news, event updates, and more.