Moulton Lava

Moultonic Musings

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Location: New England, United States

Saturday, December 17, 2005


Somewhere in my library is a book on Innumeracy by John Allen Paulos. It's been ages since I read it, and I tend to forget the author's staggering lament — that a depressing number of people are woefully incapable of thinking with numbers.

Recent dialogues have reminded me of the dispiriting ubiquity of innumeracy and dysfunctionality that pervades our culture.

Innumeracy now appears to be far worse than I had previously appreciated. It's more than just a failure at quantitative reasoning. The problem is much deeper and far more ominous than that. For the National Science Foundation, the problem of innumeracy expands into a grave educational crisis in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).

The Internet was conceived, designed, and constructed by people who were uncommonly strong in STEM disciplines. And for the first 15 years of its life, the Internet was populated almost exclusively by the kind of people who created it.

Those demographics changed about 10 years ago, when the Internet came of age and became available to the rest of the public, without regard for their grounding in the STEM disciplines that gave birth to the system.

It's been a profoundly dispiriting journey, to discover just how pervasive and insoluble is the innumeracy and dysfunctionality of the general public who have negligible training in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

At times the problem seems downright hopeless.


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