Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Rant on the Lack of Understanding of Math and Statistics

Well, not that there isn't some sort of basis for concern, not that Wen Ho Lee is innocent of breaking security rules, and not that all members of congress and the senate are total idiots, but the whole flap about polygraph testing everyone who works with classified information has convinced me that as far as understanding statistics and other technical information, the people in congress/senate are complete and total morons who can't tell a 1 from a 2, and those people pursue things like this not because of any desire to improve security but because it buys them political prestige AND because they can simplistically point a finger at a scapegoat without perturbing any brain cells.

I know that there are problems with maintaining security over national security issues, but I am so cynical of congress/senate motivations and capability of truly understanding the issues that ... that ... that ...

Well, I don't know what. I am fustrated that so many people don't understand math and numbers and science and engineering and statistics. I don't understand why it's allowed. I had to take a foreign language, I had to read classic literature, and I had to write papers in upper division social science college classes, so why isn't the opposite true? Why was my sister able to fulfill her science requirements by taking one (1) lower division class called Physics without Math using a book called "Physics for Poets".

RANT,RANT,RANT Can you tell this just pisses me off?

And you know what makes me even madder is that as a society (USA) we actually encourage our girls and racial minorities to fail at math. We deliberately socialize them that way. It's the same as if we cut off one of their arms or poked out an eye. We certainly disable them economically because when you don't have math skills you don't have access to certain jobs. This weakens our entire society because we have a segment who cannot completely engage, and so the rest of us end up supporting them. (Of course, I'm a liberal, so I'm not opposed to welfare, AFDC, food stamps, but I don't think that's the answer.)

And by math skills, it's not like they need to solve a differenial equation. Too many people don't even understand the concept of percent. When polled about 10 years ago, the overwhelming majority of USA adults said that algebra was the most useless class they took in high shool. How many of them understand percent? How many of our congressial representatives and senators would say that? Keep in mind that these people are interpreting (NOT!) the results of studies that are presented statistically and then legislating the rest of us based on their interpretation (NOT!).

I have some sympathy for the students when they are learning. I have taught high school algebra, and because it was so easy for me, I had no understanding of some of the problems that people have for whom it isn't easy. But you know what, writing wasn't easy for me when I was younger, and look at me now. It wasn't acceptable that I not be able to write.

I find it so frightening that people who don't understand the technical issues and who are more concerned with looking good in the papers are making legislative decisions. I find it frightening that our economy is moving more and more towards a technically based service economy when we are disabling more than half of our children in math and science because of the way we socialize them. The consequences for the future of our children is huge.


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