Some stories, like the results of a survey about whether American schools should teach students Arabic numerals, just make you worry for the future.
“Should schools in America teach Arabic numerals as part of their curriculum?”
It’s a simple enough question. Researchers with American market research company Civic Science asked 3,624 people that simple question.
More than half answered no. Fifty-six percent, in fact, felt Arabic numerals had no place in U.S. classrooms.
John Dick, the CEO of Civic Science, called the data the “saddest and funniest testament to American bigotry we’ve ever seen in our data.”
I’ll now explain for the benefit of everyone who doesn’t get the joke: Arabic numerals simply mean the figures 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9. They’re the familiar numerals we all learned in kindergarten if not before. We all use them every single day.
Before Arabic numerals reached western Europe through Arabia by about 1200 AD, everyone relied on Roman numerals: I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, and X, etc.
No surprise: Answers differed by political party
You can’t really call it a trick question. Most of us grew up with them referred to as such. But the research is designed to look for signs of prejudice.
The survey did not identify a “significant difference” in education between Republicans and Democrats who participated.
Yet 72 percent of Republican participants said Arabic numerals shouldn’t be in the curriculum, while only 40 percent of Democrats wanted them banned.
There’s a joke in there somewhere. But don’t start sniggering just yet.
A totally different question found that prejudice is distributed fairly equally among the two groups.
Snopes.com reported another question asked of the groups was whether American students should be taught “creation theory of Catholic priest Georges Lemaitre” as part of their science curriculum.
In this case, while a total of 53 percent of respondents said no, when you break it down by political party, it turns out 73 percent of Democrats said no and only 33 percent of Republicans said no.
It’s worth noting, however, that this is another case where people’s education may have failed them. Lemaitre’s creation theory is not Biblical creation. He developed what is commonly called the “Big Bang Theory.”
If we assume from the data about Arabic numerals that the name alone is enough to reveal prejudice, the thought of teaching a religious person’s creation theory in science class must fairly be interpreted the same way.
The survey results should be embarrassing.
Maybe more of us need to read more and complain a bit less.