Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Most parents don't want their kids exposed to 'Arabic' numerals

Marissa Higgins of the Daily Kos Staff tells us what why America is not getting great again. The reason? Our society is uninformed, or misinformed, or disinformed about the fundamentals on which our science, technology, and engineering rest: Poll says that 56% of Americans don’t want kids taught Arabic numerals. We have some bad news. This is funny, if you know what I mean, but it is also damning. In short, most Americans have no clue about the mathematical basis for our society, economy, and future.

Data can be soul-crushing. While sometimes numbers communicate exactly what you’d like to hear, polling isn’t for the faint of heart, especially when it comes to polls that reveal a lot about your peers. Like, for example, the 60% of white men who voted for Trump—or, for that matter, the 47% of white women.

Anyway. A more recent poll suggests that 56% of Americans are not only ignorant but probably also prejudiced. Why? Let’s look at some results from CivicScience Inc., a research firm based in Pittsburgh. And try not to laugh at the results!

Their CEO, John Dick, tweeted the following visual of the results of what should have been a simple question on Twitter. Unsurprisingly, people loved (and hated) it.

John Dick
@jdcivicscience
Ladies and Gentlemen: The saddest and funniest testament to American bigotry we’ve ever seen in our data.

For some context: CivicScience polled more than 3,200 Americans in this survey. The general topic was math instruction, which seems like it wouldn’t be controversial. Perhaps it would reveal some hard feelings about geometry, but nothing too attention-grabbing, right? Wrong!

Let’s start with the good. 29% of respondents said that Arabic numerals should be taught in schools. That’s great, because they already are!

16% had no opinion on the subject. That’s … odd, but okay.

An astounding 56% of Americans said Arabic numerals should not be taught in American schools.

Arabic numerals. Which are, you know, the ones we use.

Is there an explanation that doesn’t have to do with bigotry? I think not. Islamophobia is a huge problem in the U.S. My guess (and the only explanation I can gather) is that people read “Arabic” and immediately went negative. Gross.

(h/t Mrs. Scriber)

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