It is with tremendous regret to the long-term effects to mathematics that I bring you this news…
…people are dumb.
This is a rule, of course, and it’s nothing new. One of the beautiful things about mathematics – about science and, indeed, about academia as an entity, is that dumbness can be dialed back: Ignorance (whether willing or inadvertent) is met with facts and culture and exposure, and general dumbness has (at least) four(ish, ) years to have to survive bombardment with knowledge. (Of course, all of the above are generalizations based on very untrue reductions of the world and/or optimistic perceptions of academia but…)
The result is that, at the end of the day, academia is (err…should be) a vaccination against dumb…
…but sometimes, that’s not what happens.
Recently, Ed Pegg Jr. blogged about an interesting mathematical conundrum, namely the dissemination of factually incorrect information by an instance of a type of organization whose job (slash responsibility, slash understood purpose, slash entire reason for existing) is to spread foundational material to up-and-coming minds which is – at the very least – not incorrect…
…and instead, the information being spread is that ….
The number of reasons this is staggering and unbelievable is nearly infinite (don’t let them quiz you about the cardinality of such a collection, however), but I just…sigh…I just need to say…
- This is basic information for people who do math, even semi-professionally (I learned this as an undergraduate in introductory set theory). For those people (like curriculum designers), messing this up is inexcusable.
- This is not that basic (not appropriate for, oh I dunno, (College) Algebra Two). For those people, being tested on this is inexcusable.
- One second of Googling can answer this question for you if you don’t know its answer!
I can’t even express how furious this thing makes me. It makes me doubly so because we expect students in our classes to work hard and to shell out the ridiculous amount of money it costs to buy the resources being panhandled to our loitering academic institutions and, at best, things like this tells them: It’s all a sham! Welcome to whose degree is it anyway, the show where everything’s made up and the facts don’t matter!
And yes, I’m going to end this blog post with the word ugh.