Friday, February 17, 2006

Ignorant fucktard of the day.

The Washington Post's Richard Cohen. I mean, how stupid do you have to be to admit that you don't understand percentages, fer Chrissake!?!?

And as much as I think SF author Robert Heinlein was an insufferably pompous dick, I'll give him props for the following perspective:

Anyone who cannot cope with mathematics is not fully human. At best he is a tolerable subhuman who has learned to wear shoes, bathe and not make messes in the house.

Sadly, though, it doesn't stop him from being a columnist for the Washington Post.

GREAT MINDS THINK ALIKE: I didn't even realize PZ was all over this as well, but I should have guessed.

AFTERSNARK: I'm absolutely riveted by the fact that Cohen admits he just doesn't do percentages. How, then, does he figure he's going to write anything on, say, the U.S. budget? Or be able to criticize the blatantly misleading math coming out of the Bush administration?

Pop quiz: Imagine that, over the last year, prices have gone up 3% due to inflation. In response, the administration states that it will compensate for that by increasing funding for low-income families from $500 million to $510 million. Quick, Richard! Does that increase keep pace with inflation or not? Sadly, Richard doesn't have the tools to figure that out, which I suspect is why one won't ever read him analyzing the intricacies of high finance.

What an unspeakable idiot.

FOLLOWUP: "Michael" in the comments section is not happy with me, but let's go over Cohen's piece again to really understand where he (Cohen) screws the pooch on this one.

First, I never said anything about this earlier, but I'm just a little suspicious of this story in the first place. It may very well be true, but there's just something odd about someone in the 12th grade -- that close to graduation -- who bails because she can't pass algebra. After six attempts. I have no proof, but I can't help but think there's more to this story than what Cohen reports.

(Read that last sentence again: "I have no proof." Got that? I'm just hypothesizing here. Is it possible that there is another reason that she left school, and that algebra is just a handy scapegoat? I guess we'll never know. In any event, onward.)

Cohen next mentions that "the L.A. school district now requires all students to pass a year of algebra and a year of geometry in order to graduate." Under the circumstances, then, for that young lady, unless she can pass that algebra course, her options are severely limited.

Cohen would like to paint a picture of a life of options without that nasty algebra. But that's just bullshit in this case. Without algebra, no high school diploma. And with no high school diploma, you are basically fucked. You might be able to blow off finishing high school if you're some kind of whiz kid, technological wonder genius who's going to start his own Internet company at the age of 15 or something. But if you bail from high school because you can't pass algebra, you have pretty well fucked up your future in a big way.

(And let me emphasize one more thing. No one is demanding that this girl ace the course. All they're asking is that she pass it. If you can't even get better than an F in a first course in algebra, then there is something seriously wrong.)

Maybe this girl has a learning disorder, who knows? But for Cohen to suggest, hey, it's no big deal, algebra is overrated, is perhaps the stupidest thing imaginable he could have said. What he is in effect saying is, hey, don't sweat that high school diploma, you can get along just fine.

It may surprise you, but I can sympathize with that student while still thinking Richard Cohen is a world-class jackass. I really can hold two different thoughts simultaneously. Trust me.

OTHER VOICES: Not surprisingly, others have added to the din about Cohen's column. I haven't read those pieces yet and it's possible there are some Cohen defenders there. Never say I didn't try to be fair. Even to complete dumbfucks.


Ferdzy said...

Okay, okay; I admit it. I understand percentages. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

Actually, I'm pretty bad at math. But percentages aren't exactly math. They're just basic arithmetic. Can't do basic arithmetic? Yikes! Stay the hell away from politico-economic commentary.

Michael said...

Jesus H Christ. Did you even read the column? It reads like the description of someone who went border suicidal after giving up on algebra, and Cohen's response reads like a parent living in fear of evidence that a child has given up on a future. "Gathered her textbooks, dropped them at the campus book room and, without telling a soul, vanished from Birmingham High School." is a devastating sentence to read.

All he's saying is that algebra is not the be-all and end-all of life. And frankly, he's saying it very well. In today's world where an onscreen calculator is a Windows "Accessory", for God's sake, he's right. You don't "need" algebra to be successful somewhere else.

Tarring him with an "Ignorant fucktard" label is way out of line for you, and something I had not thought was in your character. I am really, really disappointed to see how you spun this one.

Next time, hit "Review" before you hit "Post", and maybe, while you're at it, do "read" before you do "write".

CC said...


I've already addressed your comment to some extent above, but there's another point I want to make.

Cohen suggests (and with some justification) that there's still a lot you can do without knowing algebra. And he's right. But let's push that analogy a bit further, shall we?

Do people really need to know any basic physics or chemistry? If you think about it, maybe not. When was the last time you needed to calculate acceleration?

Do you really need, say, any knowledge of literature? I'm betting that, technically, you could get away with being ignorant about that as well.

In fact, if you really give it some thought, I'll bet that you could get along just fine without knowing anything about chemistry, physics, algebra, calculus or literature. If, that is, your plan is to spend the rest of your life handing people food in a styrofoam container or screwing lug nuts onto wheels on an assembly line.

Cohen is being a jerk because his main argument for not needing algebra is that he apparently didn't need it. And look where he ended up -- a columnist for the Washington Post.

Oh ... and an asshole. That, too. But I'm pretty sure knowing algebra wouldn't have helped him there.

dAVE said...

From your know-it-all Canadian perspective, sure, learning for the sake of not being a total dumbass means something.

But down here in the good old US of A, all studying's gonna getcha is an ass kicking. And we're PROUD of it. So, you get a C- average, and you can be President.

Luna said...

What I don't understand is why Algebra is a requirement there? You sure didn't need it to graduate from high school where I grew up (Saskatchewan). You can take General Math instead, and still graduate with the same diploma.

I have algebra, but frankly, I think General Math might have been more useful. :)