Weekend open thread: Computation errors

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? I’ve been thinking about math, or rather, the inability to do math. This fascinating article by Robert Charette exposes the “myth” of an alleged shortage of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) workers. The real problem in the U.S., Charette argues, is “a STEM knowledge shortage.”

To fill that shortage, you don’t necessarily need a college or university degree in a STEM discipline, but you do need to learn those subjects, and learn them well, from childhood until you head off to college or get a job. Improving everyone’s STEM skills would clearly be good for the workforce and for people’s employment prospects, for public policy debates, and for everyday tasks like balancing checkbooks and calculating risks.

Speaking of public policy debates, Congressional Republicans are poised for another showdown over the debt ceiling, armed with phony concern about a “growing” federal deficit. In fact, the deficit is falling at the fastest rate in decades, but very few Americans realize that, and self-appointed fact-checkers bend over backwards not to acknowledge it.

Speaking of the inability to count, Governor Terry Branstad’s administration has touted misleading “job creation” numbers for a long time, but the latest propaganda is “inflated” even if you accept the governor’s “bizarre” practice of counting only jobs created while not subtracting jobs lost.

Politicians aren’t the only ones who let ideology interfere with basic numeracy. This must-read piece by Chris Mooney summarizes findings from a new study: “people who are otherwise very good at math may totally flunk a problem that they would otherwise probably be able to solve, simply because giving the right answer goes against their political beliefs.”  Regardless of party affiliation, research subjects with higher math skills were better at solving a problem about the effectiveness of skin cream. When the same numbers were presented as evidence related to handgun bans, liberal Democrats and conservative Republicanss were more likely to arrive at the wrong answer if the correct answer went against their opinions about gun control and crime.

This is an open thread.

  • The poster boy for lack of STEM knowledge

    has to be Steve King. Besides being a global warming denier, he said that “what goes up must come down” is Newton’s First Law. An eighth-grade level of scientific knowledge should be a minimum requirement for elected office. He also has wrong-headed ideas about economics.

  • Mark Jacobs

    Anyone know if the events Mark Jacobs has been holding are open to the public?  I presume most of them are just open to central committees.  I would honestly like to hear what the guy says.  I don’t want to track anyone or agitate people in anyway.

    I know this blog is a strange place to ask, but I don’t really know where else I can get an answer.  Republican activists would be skeptical of me given my resume.  

    • I don't know the answer

      but my view of Jacobs’ chances for buying the GOP nomination changed when I learned he gave $3,000 to Arlen Specter’s re-election campaign months after Specter became a Democrat. That is going to be hard to explain away.  

      • Thanks

        Thanks for your guess.  I heard about the Specter donation and to me that proves he is on this planet.  In other words, that and any other donations like it would make Jacobs more electable to right leaning independents in places where Grassley wins, but not many other Republicans do.

        Jacobs is also for some national benchmarks when it comes to education.  I know that won’t endear him to too many conservative or  educators for that matter.    

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