In this study, we offer an analysis of the phrase the "soft bigotry of low expectations" and considers its role in rhetoric about U.S. mathematics education policy and practice, especially in regards to Critical Mathematical Inquiry. From the phrase’s origins in a speech given by President George W. Bush in 2000, to its current use on social media, this phrase offers a lens into white supremacy and "tools of whiteness" (Picower, 2009), and their persistence in U.S. schooling paradigms, especially about mathematics. We analyze specific, recent instantiations of the phrase on blogrolls and Twitter, in addition to more implicit evocations within influential consensus documents and mainstream discourse about education.

Author Biography

Laurie Rubel

Laurie Rubel is currently a professor in the Department of Secondary Education at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York and visiting faculty at the University of Haifa. Her research interests include diversity and equity in mathematics education, mathematical modeling, probabilistic thinking, place- based education, and teaching mathematics for spatial justice.

Andrea McCloskey

Andrea McCloskey is Associate Professor of Mathematics Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at Penn State University. Her research focuses on teacher preparation and development, cultural influences on teaching practices in elementary school mathematics, and ways that the rituals of improvisational theater can critique current practices and point to new ways of understanding mathematical activity in classroom settings. Dr. McCloskey has published in journals such as the Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, Educational Studies in Mathematics, and Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School. She is also the co-founder of Happy Valley Improv, a longform improvisational theater company.



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