by KellyAnn Bonnell, MA
When the television series NUMB3RS first came out, it was a tantalizing idea that math could be used to predict crime. Now the very concept is the norm in LA according to a recent news piece by Al Jazeera America called Fighting Crime with Algorithms . Equally as important as the concept of law enforcement using Algorithms is the fact that the news piece looks at two sides of the issue in the same report; including responses from the LAPD who like the use of their software and a representative of the ACLU who has concerns about racial profiling. There are some aspects of this new piece and it’s reflection on popular culture that makes it an ideal artifact use in the common core classroom.
Al Jazeera America is probably a little controversial in some communities. Common sense in Common Core implementation necessitates that you ease into the use of such a news outlet gently. A unit in the first amendment, news reporting, or point of view would be good places to start. At the high school level you might consider showing clips of HBO’s “Newsroom” focusing on the discussions of news and entertainment. Another avenue you might want to explore is international perspectives on US current events. It would be good to have students explore international news outlets providing alternative reporting to US news outlets. Provide them assignments to look at US events from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, BBC America, etc. Explore bias in news reporting and our first amendment rights.
In relation to the content of this particular news piece, a strong theme is fourth amendment rights. While issues of racial profiling and constitutional rights were never addressed as mathematician, Dr. Charlie Epps provided consulting services to his brother’s FBI team on NUMB3RS, it is a strong theme in this real life news piece. It allows a frank and honest discussion of fourth amendment rights while exploring current events. Students might be challenged to find other examples of law enforcement practices that might infringe on the fourth amendment such as TSA practices at airports, the New York City Stop and Frisk program, etc.
Another approach would be to look at how STEM careers support law enforcement. Fictional television series such as NUMB3RS and Bones introduce how careers not typically used in law enforcement can support the efforts of police, FBI, etc. Reality shows such as Cold Justice take students in a different direction. It is an opportunity to look at career options.
I used the phrase common sense in common core. Make it a litany as you promote higher order thinking skills with your students. Their experiences should be developmentally appropriate regardless of age. This means first they are age appropriate, second they are individually appropriate and third they are culturally appropriate.