by Mrs. Q
[This, a comment in last Friday’s Open Forum, which followed upon Steve Witherspoon’s directing our horrified gaze to Oregon’ teaching program that seeks to undo ‘racism in mathematics.’ The links are here, the here, and here, is presented as a Guest Column, not Mrs. Q’s first.]
This reminds me of Erika Mann’s discussion of mathematics education (Völkisches Rechnen or people’s arithmetic) under Nazi rule in the 1930’s, in her book School for Barbarians. Here’s an example (page 67):
“An airplane flies at the rate of 240 kilometers per hour to a place at a distance if 210 kilometers in order to drop bombs. When may it be expected to return if the dropping of bombs takes 7.5 minutes?“
-From National Political Practice in Arithmetic Lessons.
A question like this may not initially point to a scholastic propaganda problem until the other questions come into play, questions like:
- “What was Germany’s population loss due to the Versailles Treaty?” What is the load capacity of four gas bombs?”
- ” How many people can fit into a bomb shelter?”
- “What percentage of the German population is home to “alien” Jews?”
It suddenly becomes more clear that these questions are preparing these kids for war…and compliance with the state.
This article, called “Joe Biden’s Votes Violate Benford’s Law (Mathematics)” is, if nothing else, interesting. Math is not my wheelhouse, to say the least. Maybe it’s right and maybe it’s garbage, but Benford’s Law is real, and is used to detect fraud, as this article explains.
Prof. Reynolds, who posted the link, on his blog, says that Facebook will not post the link in any form. That itself is a red flag. Why is Facebook preventing readers from learning about a process that might lend a clue to whether the current election vote totals have been manipulated or not? What is Facebook afraid of?
The rush to conclude the election rather than examine these legitimate questions is its own red flag.
His bio says that Hohmann is a Stanford University grad and a national political correspondent for The Washington Post, as well as the author of The Daily 202, the Post’s political newsletter. Here is his recent tweet:
I wonder if he had the same math teachers as Mara Gay and Brian Williams (Item #2)?
The reporter was so eager to mock the President that he concocted a cheap gotcha! and made himself look foolish. Or maybe not at the Post: this is similar to a lot of the alleged “lies” on the Post’s Trump Lie list, and about as well reasoned: “The President said that he had seen gas selling for 91 cents a gallon, when the average price was $1.94.”
Again I ask, how can the public trust journalists like this to do political analysis? Why would they, unless readers want biased reporting?
Aside: A commenter at the Instapundit link above writes,
With so many people freaking out about computer models, this seems like a good time for some perspective!
Here is JG’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 4/4/2020: Letting The Perfect Be The Enemy Of The Good, And Other Blunders,” (Item #2):
I’m a math major from the late 60s so I do love numbers but wasn’t subjected to subsequent generations of educators preaching the genius of computer generated models (CGM).
My first job after college was in the research department of a well-known consulting company. One of the whiz kid consultants from Stanford was all about computer models (this is when we were still using teletypes to communicate with the mainframe).
I’ll never forget how impressed I was with his modeling and he, very wisely, cautioned me that it was difficult to remove personal bias from a computer model. He told me that our brains work more efficiently than any computer and, when faced with a problem that may require analyzing huge data series (i.e. perfect project for a computer), we, with our human brains, already have a “gut” conclusion which creeps into the modeling and very well may influence its neutrality. That piece of advice has stayed with me lo these 50 years and makes me skeptical about the reliability of any computer-generated model. Continue reading
Remember his name?
A chance reference in a book I was perusing yesterday reminded me of a fascinating historical figure whom I hadn’t thought about in decades—which still gives me an edge over most people, who have never thought about him at all. He is Jerome Cardano, or, in the Italian version of his name, Gerolamo Cardano, an archetypical Renaissance man from Italy who walked the earth between 1501 and 1576. When I first learned about him those many years ago, his remarkable life didn’t give me any ethical insights because I wasn’t thinking about ethics then. Now, reviewing the facts of his remarkable life, I find that it carries at least five lessons with value for anyone who strives to live in a more ethical culture, and to have his or her own life contribute to making the world a better place.
Lesson 1 : Diligence—Play the hand you are dealt the best you can.
Cardano’s mother attempted to abort him by taking various poisons, but succeeded only in making him unhealthy. He stuttered; he was incapable of sexual relations, and had chronic insomnia, supposedly resulting in an “annual period” where he got little or no sleep for two to three months. He was afflicted at various times with the plague, cancer, dysentery, and many lesser ailments, yet he led a life full of extraordinary accomplishments and adventures, and continued to be active and breathing for 75 years, when most of his class and era died before they reached 45. Continue reading
Tom Fuller, who can be perceptive when he isn’t peppering us with the quotations of others (all right, even sometimes when he is) makes a useful distinction in the Comment of the Day, on today’s post about the New Jersey Lottery:
“Don’t get me wrong. I’m no fan of government-sponsored lotteries, and I share all of the concerns about them mentioned above. But a facile slogan like “lotteries are a tax on people who don’t understand math” is, like most facile slogans, too simplistic a way of making the arguments. There are plenty of psychological and economic reasons why even people who understand the math buy lottery tickets that are, quite literally, bad bets. There is lots of research on this; one of the better articles is now 21 years old, but is still cited as a good, brief, and comprehensible overview.” [You can read it here.]
“Every gamble is a losing bet in the long run; otherwise it wouldn’t be a gamble. The trouble with state-run lotteries is not so much that they exploit those who “don’t get it”; they exploit anyone, even a mathematical genius, who is drawn towards what society generally regards as undesirable actities, thereby sending the same mixed messages as taxes on tobacco and alcohol.”