New CRT-inspired theory questions objectivity of numbers, statistics

A new theory called 'QuantCrit' involves the application of critical race theory to 'quantitative data... used in research and/or encountered in policy and practice.'

According to some promoters of QuantCrit, numbers are 'not neutral' and are 'socially constructed.'

A new theory called “QuantCrit” involves the application of critical race theory to “quantitative data... used in research and/or encountered in policy and practice.” 

This is according to a 2017 paper from David Gillborn titled “QuantCrit: education, policy, ‘Big Data’ and principles for a critical race theory of statistics.” Gillborn, Emeritus Professor of Critical Race Studies at the University of Birmingham in the UK, recently gave a keynote speech on the topic at an Association for the study of Higher Education (ASHE) conference.

Gillborn said during his speech at the Nov. 22 meeting that “statistics are really bad at getting at racism. And often they are used to shut down discussions about racism.” 

He went on to question the common notion that statistics are “neutral” and that numbers are “hard facts.” Instead, Gillborn argued, “In fact, all numbers are made up, as well. All numbers are socially constructed. Statistics aren’t sitting around in nice, neat packages for people to come around and count.”

[RELATED: Scholars claim that statistics ‘serve white racial interests’]

According to Gillborn’s paper, QuantCrit is a framework for understanding data through five principles, including “the centrality of racism as a complex and deeply-rooted aspect of society that is not readily amenable to quantification” and “numbers are not neutral and should be interrogated for their role in promoting deficit analyses that serve White racial interests.”

Another paper on QuantCrit called “QuantCrit: rectifying quantitative methods through critical race theory,” authored by Rutgers professor Nichole Garcia, argues that statistics and “quantitative approaches cannot be adopted for racial justice aims without an ontological reckoning that considers historical, social, political, and economic power relations.”

Part of that “reckoning” is recognizing the “eugenist approaches to the study of social inequalities in Black communities in Philadelphia in the late 1800s and early 1900s.” Overall, the paper calls into “question the ‘objectivity’ of quantitative methods.”

QuantCrit has also made its way into other sectors of the academy and national organizations. 

[RELATED: Profs help push program that claims math is ‘racist’ because it requires a ‘right answer’]

For example, Paulette Vincent-Ruz at the University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Science, and the Arts has a “#QuantCrit Resources” page. An informational document posted to the page discusses “White Supremacy’s Role in Education” and the notion that “Numbers are not neutral.”

Similarly, a presentation was offered earlier this month on QuantCrit by the Research for Inclusive STEM Education Center at Arizona State University, in order to “Support Equity and Justice in Chemistry Education Research.” 

The American Psychological Association (APA) also recently published an article discussing QuantCrit. 

Quantitative Critical Race Theory, or QuantCrit, articles are on the rise. This is a rapidly developing research approach that aims to both challenge and improve the use of statistical data in social research by applying the insights of Critical Race Theory,” the APA piece reads.

Campus Reform continues to track the growing influence of leftist ideas seeking to politicize and question the objectivity of STEM fields.

All relevant parties have been contacted for comment and this article will be updated as needed.