An American market research company, Civic Watch, surveyed 3,624 Americans asking if they believe Arabic numerals should be taught in schools. The result? A whopping 56 percent of respondents said no, 29 percent said yes, and 15 percent had no opinion either way.
So should I tell the naysayers, or do you want to?
Arabic numerals, guys and gals and nonbinary pals, are the digits 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9. So I guess those who answered nay want us to return to Roman numerals? Or perhaps hieroglyphs? Maybe some kind of unregulated numeric free for all? Hell, let’s get rid of those pesky numerals altogether, amirite?
The Arabic numeral system, originally developed by Indian mathematicians, is widely used around the world today. And it would seem the majority of Americans surveyed are just too damn uneducated or Islamophobic to divorce their ignorance and bigotry from where their common sense should be.
Let’s not for a second pretend the people who responded in the negative didn’t do so because of the word “Arabic.” That’s exactly why they did it. Either that or they want to eliminate intellectualism entirely.
According to The Atlantic:
Seventy-two per cent of Republican-supporting respondents said Arabic numerals should not be on the curriculum, compared [to] 40 per cent of Democrats. This was despite there being no significant difference in education between the two groups.
Oh, okay. I amend my previous statement. It only partially has to do with education. It’s mostly bigotry.
The chief executive of Civic Science, John Dick (whose name sounds fake, but okay), had this to say about the results:
[The results are] the saddest and funniest testament to American bigotry we’ve ever seen in our data. They answer differently even though they had equal knowledge of our numerical nomenclature. It means that the question is about knowledge or ignorance but [also] something else – prejudice.
Yes, Mr. Dick. It’s a real problem in this country.
If you think it’s just Republican-leaning respondents who wear their biases on their sleeves, think again. Another survey question, which asked whether American schools should teach the creation theory of Catholic Priest Georges Lemaitre, yielded an overwhelming 73 percent no from Democrats.
The problem? Lemaitre was not just a Catholic priest. He was also the physicist who birthed the Big Bang Theory (the actual scientific theory, not the TV show). And while knowing what Arabic numerals are should be much more basic and fundamental than knowing who Lemaitre is, still. The results suggest we allow our biases to cloud our judgment regardless of which end of the political spectrum we most identify with.
The takeaway? We’re doomed. Just give up now because it won’t get any better.
I’M KIDDING. The takeaway is that we need to learn to recognize both our conscious AND unconscious biases and do the work to prevent them from tainting our approach to the world.
It’s not going to be easy, folks. But it is necessary.
Interested in getting started right away? Harvard University’s Project Implicit, which hosts a number of tests aimed at helping participants recognize their subconscious biases, is a great place to begin.
So get on out there, do the introspection, and remember: Arabic numerals are your friends.