I wonder if I can get this on my tombstone?
Well, Tallahassee isn’t known for its Nobel Laureates, so it’s not surprising that an ignorant, hypersensitive Baptist woman would try to make choices for an entire school district based on her own deeply-ingrained religious phobias.
The Tallahassee Democrat story, in short, notes that pressure from a handful of parents — whose combined cranial capacity probably amounts to a handful — got The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time pulled from the Lincoln high school summer reading list. A woman named Sue Gee is featured as a principal instigator.
The Democrat story calls Mrs. Gee a “teacher.” That’s stretching it a bit. A quick look on LinkedIn shows her to be the Minister of Preschoolers & Children (preschoolers aren’t children?) at Immanuel Baptist Church, a tidy little enclave of roughly 2,000 deeply troubled souls — and oddly enough, one of ten such Baptist churches clustered within a 1-mile radius, just northeast of the town center. This is Ground Zero for corn-pone credulity and feeble-mindedness, hiding beneath a mask of “faith.”
Before we descend into the maelstrom, it is worth noting that Mark Haddon’s book has won the 2004 Boeke Prize, the 2003 Whitbread Book of the Year award, the 2004 Alex Awards, which “honor the 10 top adult books with appeal for adolescents,” the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize, the Book Trust teenage fiction award, and was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize. To-date, it has sold over 2 million copies worldwide.
A quote sums up the situation in all its piteous ignorance:
“The foul language and the religious skepticism alarmed Sue Gee, former teacher and a mother of an incoming Lincoln eleventh-grader.
‘I am not interested in having books banned,’ Gee said. ‘But to have that language and to take the name of Christ in vain – I don’t go for that. As a Christian, and as a female, I was offended. Kids don’t have to be reading that type of thing!’ “
I don’t care that Sue Gee is a stupefied, obtuse bint. I care very much that she and others like her are able to make public policy of any kind.
In June of this year there was an outcry amongst UK sixteen-year-olds in the wake of this GCSE probability problem:
So, speaking as a mathematician (and a former college professor), here’s my take on this:
First and foremost, you can be sure of two things:
There is a solution, and
Test-makers at the public-school level do not have time to plow through great, long, unwieldy answers to basic maths problems.
You may be caught off-guard momentarily, but calm down, use what you know , and Keep It Simple.
So, what do we know? Well …
The first thing that jumps out at me is that quadratic.
It would be easy to write in an equivalent form:
n2 – n – 90 = 0
n2 – n = 90
What number, when subtracted from its square, equals 90?
Why, 10 of course!
So now, “Show n2 – n – 90 = 0″ becomes the much simpler equivalent statement
“Show n = 10.”
Note: we are talking about a whole number of candies, so a small, simple number like 10 makes sense.
Onwards: back to What You Know.
Pulling one out of 6 orange sweets,and then one of 5 (remaining) orange sweets, from a bag of n (10, remember?) sweets looks like this:
This resolves to
Recall that the probability is one- third, and you get
For n = 10 you get the true statement
I know it’s easy to armchair-quarterback these things when you’re not sweating in a timed test– for what it’s worth, that’s my approach.
This is too good to not share. In this bright, catchy, calypso piece (with a full orchestra!), Tim Minchin brilliantly destroys the idea of faith healing:
“… Now I understand how prayer can work:
A particular prayer in a particular church
In a particular style with a particular stuff
And for particular problems that aren’t particularly tough,
And for particular people, preferably white
And for particular senses, preferably sight
A particular prayer in a particular spot
To a particular version of a particular god
And if you get that right, he just might
Take a break from giving babies malaria
And pop down to your local area
And fix the cataracts of your mum!
In this wonderful song Tim Minchin combines two bible verses to prove a point:
“If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her. He may not divorce her all his days.”
“If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them:
Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;
And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice;
And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.”
Delightful, no? No.
I really enjoy Penn Jillette’s very polite, very straightforward examination of the Bible’s contribution to his own atheism:
Why would reading the Bible make you an atheist?
1:54-3:26 : “I think because what we get told about the Bible is such a lot of picking and choosing. When you see, you know, Lot’s daughter gang raped and beaten and the Lord being OK with that; when you actually read about Abraham being willing to kill his son, when you actually read that, when you read the insanity of the talking snake, when you read the hostility toward homosexuals, towards women, the celebration of slavery; when you read in context that “thou shall not kill” means only in your own tribe.
I mean, there’s no hint that it means humanity in general. That there’s no sense of a shared humanity, it’s all tribal, when you see a god that is jealous and insecure, when you see that there are contradictions that show that it was clearly written hundreds of years after the supposed facts … read what the Bible says. Going back to the source material is always the best. When someone’s trying to interpret something for you they always have an agenda. So read the Bible.”
One of the things on my “makes life worth living” list is Anderson Cooper’s giggle. Here is an excerpt from what I like to call The Basil Candle Incident:
With things going to Hell in a Handbasket so quickly, I thought I’d post something both Mathematical and Funny (and how often does that combination occur?):
“Probably the only place where a man can feel really secure is in a maximum security prison, except for the imminent threat of release. The problem of recidivism ought to have shown young men like John Greenaway1 just what sort of a notion security is, but there is no indication that he would understand it.
Security is when everything is settled, when nothing can happen to you; security is the denial of life. Human beings are better equipped to cope with disaster and hardship than they are with unvarying security, but as long as security is the highest value in a community they can have little opportunity to decide this for themselves.”
― Germaine Greer,
1. [School of Economic and Social Studies, University of East Anglia, UK; author of Drink and British Politics Since 1830: A Study in Policy-making]↩
Slate magazine delves into the psychology of mass-marketing to the Ignorant Hordes.
You know why you snigger at those “one Weird trick” sidebar ads, but do you ever wonder why they persist?
: A state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects. (OED)
From BBC World News: “A man has been critically injured in Ferguson, Missouri, in an exchange of gunfire with police at a rally marking the anniversary of the killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown.”