Bias: ‘Arabic Numerals’ Should not be Taught in School

Bias: ‘Arabic Numerals’ Should not be Taught in School

bias

Bias that manifests as utter stupidity might indeed be something that “they” do, but we are of course clever and would never be that stupid .. right?

The pollsters over at Civic Science asked 3,624 respondents: “Should schools in America teach Arabic numerals as part of their curriculum?” The poll did not explain what the term “Arabic numerals” meant, and so this happened …

Dig a bit and you find that 72% of Republican-supporting respondents said Arabic numerals should not be on the curriculum, compared 40% of Democrats. 

You do of course appreciate that the numbers we use, 0,2,3,4 etc.. are Arabic in origin, hence what appears to happen is that 56% don’t actually think about the question, but instead their bias kicks in and they instantly reply “No”.

We might even think, “well gosh, 72% of Republicans are truly dumb, no surprise there then“.

The Creation Question

This was also asked … “Should schools in America teach the creation theory of Catholic priest George Lemaitre as part of their science curriculum?”, and in this case 73% of Democrats said “No”.

The problem of course is that the Belgian priest, Georges Lemaitre, was also a physicist. It was his discovery of an expanding universe that eventually became known as the Big bang Theory.

Dialog

When challenged about the vagueness of the questions and the language used, Mr Dick replied …

Our goal in this experiment was to tease out prejudice among those who didn’t understand the question. Most people don’t know the origins of our numerical system and yet picked a tribal answer anyway. You can argue that one is worse than the other but both prove a similar point.

However, there is also this rebuttal made by some critics …

I wouldn’t expect anyone to have so deep a knowledge of the history of science that they would equate this question to the concept of the Big Bang. I, personally, would object to the phrasing because it makes the theory appear religious in origin.

I think this question borders on intentionally misleading. Failing to mention that he was employed primarily as a professor of physics and astronomy after seeding a (non-existent) religious element to the theory seems dishonest.

I think you may have too quickly made assumptions about the extent to which “liberal” versus “conservative” priming affects this particular batch of results. In essence you’ve asked in one case, “should we teach a religious theory about creation,” while in the other you’ve asked, “should we teach another ethnicity’s number system?” the first question bears on how one views the role of the state promoting or not religion in public schools, something that is a matter of legal precedent.

Thoughts?

I’m with the criticism on this one. The poll questions are indeed primed to trigger a response, and so they don’t tell you very much about what people actually think or know, but instead simply measure the emotional response to some tribal trigger phrases.

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