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Survey Says

According to a recent survey by CivicScience, a majority of Americans are opposed to teaching Arabic numerals in school. 56% of respondents answered no, while ony 29% answered yes. 15% had no opinion.

Additionally, a majority of Americans are opposed to teaching the creation theory of Catholic Priest Georges Lemaître. This time 53% said no, only 20% said yes, and 27% offered no opinion.

The point of the questions, according to CivicScience's John Dick, was to "tease out prejudice among people who didn't understand the question." The idea was that people unfamiliar with the terms would key in on politically charged words and answer based on their own political leanings.

So, for people unaware that Arabic numerals are the digits 0 through 9, the numbering system we use every day, the key word "Arabic" might cause Republicans to oppose the measure. For people unaware that Georges Lemaître proposed the Big Bang, the standard scientific cosmological model of the origin of the universe, the key word "Catholic" might cause Democrats to oppose the measure.

And the respondents did not disappoint. Or rather, they did disappoint, in the expected way. Republicans overwhelmingly opposed teaching Arabic numerals, and Democrats overwhelmingly opposed teaching about the Big Bang.

The most troubling thing about this is the respondents had the correct answer offered to them, but the vast majority rejected it. If you've never heard of the term Arabic numerals or the ideas of Catholic Priest Georges Lemaître, the honest answer is that you have no opinion about whether they should be taught. Using a heuristic based on a politically charged keyword is a way to proclaim one's party loyalty, but it is not a way to make smart decisions.

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