LOS ANGELES - A recent poll from CivicScience, an American market research company, has revealed what the CEO of the company is calling “the saddest and funniest testament to American bigotry we've ever seen in our data.”
“Should schools in America teach Arabic numerals as part of their curriculum?” was the question posed to 3,624 respondents: 2,020 of them, or 56 percent, said “no.”
Twenty-nine percent of respondents said that Arabic numerals should be taught in American schools, while the remaining 15 percent had no opinion.
The survey didn't provide an explanation of what “Arabic numerals” meant, a move that CivicScience CEO, John Dick, said was employed to “tease out prejudice among those who didn't understand the question.”
Arabic numerals are taught in schools and used in everyday life by most Americans, and they are the standard system used to denote numbers in most other parts of the world as well.
The digits 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 are Arabic numerals, developed in the 6th or 7th century in India and later introduced to Europe through the writings of Middle Eastern mathematicians, most notably Al-Khwarizmi and Al-Kindi, in the 12th century. These numerals paved the way for complex math systems, like algebra, which replaced archaic counting methods like the abacus.
The survey wasn't just about knowledge and ignorance, though, and CivicScience looked at the split between Republican and Democrat answers to gain insight into bias and prejudice.
Seventy-two percent of respondents who identified as Republican said that Arabic numerals should not be taught in school, and 40 percent of respondents who identified as Democrats held the same opinion.
The question about Arabic numerals wasn't the only question posed in the survey, however. A second question reveals that bias and prejudice go both ways.
“Should schools in America teach the creation theory of Catholic priest George Lemaitre as part of their science curriculum?” was also posed to respondents. Seventy-three percent of Democrats answered “no,” versus 33 percent of Republicans.
Lemaitre was a Belgian astronomer and cosmologist who studied physics at the University of Cambridge as well as Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Cambridge campus, which led him to study the theory of an expanding universe. He went on to propose what we know today as the Big Bang theory. He also happened to have been ordained as a Catholic priest before entering the field of physics.
“While Lemaitre is more obscure than Arabic numerals, the resulting effect is almost identical. Dems are biased against Western religions, if latently,” John Dick explained, “This kind of blind prejudice can happen on both sides.”