Earlier this month, a survey was posted online asking “Should schools in America teach Arabic Numerals as a part of their curriculum?”
Some people were able to immediately tell that it was a trick question because Arabic numerals are the numbers used by most of the world and the numbers that we were all taught in school. However, not everyone realized that the numerals used by most of the world today were actually developed in the ancient Arab world.
In fact, a majority of 56% of the people who responded to the survey voted “no.”
Ignorance is one thing, but some of the comments that people made in response to the question showed that they had a prejudiced reaction to the idea that “Arabic” numerals would be taught in schools. Some of the respondents that voted “no” on the survey commented that only “English” or “American” numbers should be taught in American schools.
Multiple versions of this poll have been posted various places online throughout the month of May, but a survey published by John Dick, the CEO of a polling company called Civic Science, has gathered the most attention.
Ladies and Gentlemen: The saddest and funniest testament to American bigotry we've ever seen in our data. pic.twitter.com/Bh3FBsl8sR
— John Dick (@jdcivicscience) May 11, 2019
Dick, said that the “goal in this experiment was to tease out prejudice among those who didn’t understand the question. Most people don’t know the origins of our numerical system and yet picked a tribal answer anyway. You can argue that one is worse than the other, but both prove a similar point.”
The question was a part of a broader experiment conducted by Civic Science, where a variety of similar questions were asked.
The question about Arabic numerals teased out ignorance and bigotry among conservatives, while other questions teased out ignorance and bigotry among progressives. For example, another question in the survey asked, “Should schools in America teach the creation theory of Catholic priest George Lemaitre as a part of their science curriculum.”
This question was a bit more obscure, but people well-read in the field of science would know that George Lemaitre developed the prevailing expanding universe theory, which is more popularly known as “The Big Bang.”
Sorry to break this to everyone but it appears neither side has a monopoly on blind prejudice. Either that or 73% of Democrats believe schools shouldn't be teaching students about the Big Bang Theory. pic.twitter.com/zoPHq4Nffs
— John Dick (@jdcivicscience) May 15, 2019
On this question, 53% of respondents, and 73% of Democrats voted “no.” These results were likely due to the fact that people saw the words “catholic” and “theory of creation” in the same sentence, and allowed their prejudices to fill in the blanks.
The results of this poll are reminiscent of a 2015 poll from Public Policy Polling which showed that 30% of Republican voters are in favor of bombing Agrabah, the fictitious land that is depicted in the story Aladdin.
30% of Republican primary voters nationally say they support bombing Agrabah. Agrabah is the country from Aladdin. #NotTheOnion
— PublicPolicyPolling (@ppppolls) December 18, 2015
According to the poll, 30% said that they would support the bombing of Agrabah, while 13% were opposed to the bombing, and 57% were undecided. Other interesting revelations from the poll show that 46% of those surveyed would support a national Muslim database, 26% believe Islam should be illegal and 28% favor the policy of internment camps. Later, the same organization polled Democrats with the same question and found that 19% of them were in favor of bombing Agrabah, which is still quite alarming.
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