Race-based math books, Florida style!

FRIDAY, APRIL 22, 2022

What happens at times of war: What happens at times of tribal war? As a general matter, something of the following type will routinely occur:

Tribal Group A will make a reasonably reasonable point—but uh-oh! As it makes this reasonably reasonable point, Tribal Group A engages in wild name-calling and substantial overstatement.

Tribal Group B responds to this with name-calling of its own. As it does, its tribunes fail to notice the fact that a reasonably reasonable point can be found within the wild name-calling and substantial overstatements of Tribal Group A.

Exchanges like these have attended the recent Florida / Wisconsin public school tribal messaging wars.  Consider the recent flap about those math textbooks in Florida. At the Washington Post, Valerie Strauss provides the background:

STRAUSS (4/21/22): Days after announcing that it had rejected 41 percent of math textbooks submitted by publishers—some of them because of references to critical race theory and other “prohibited” topics—the Florida Department of Education on Thursday released four examples of lessons it considers unacceptable.

Strauss presented the four examples cited by Florida officials. One example involves a problem in statistics concerning the age-old question, "What percentage of conservatives turn out to be slobbering racists?"

Does it make good sense to present such problems in a public school math text? Kevin Drum offers the following assessment. It's hard to say that he's wrong:

DRUM (4/21/22): So the lesson here is that conservatives are racist, as proven by a test that's of dubious reliability.

Nice work, textbook people. This is insane. I can't imagine there's a conservative governor anywhere in the country who wouldn't be offended by this. If this math book included a similar bar graph showing crime rates by race, do you think that liberal governors might be equally offended?

For chrissake. How about if we stick to bar charts of smog levels at different hours of the day, or something like that?

It's hard to say that Drum is wrong about an example which shoehorns such a touchy subject into a basic math text. Meanwhile, for the sheer stupidity of which our own liberal tribe is capable, just check a few of the early comments to Drum's post.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep—but the world is full of people with imperfect judgment. We'd offer the same cautionary note about the recent flap concerning the "Libs of TikTok" Twitter site. In this case, Taylor Lorenz provides the background, again at the Washington Post:

LORENZ (4/21/22): On March 8, a Twitter account called Libs of TikTok posted a video of a woman teaching sex education to children in Kentucky, calling the woman in the video a “predator.” The next evening, the same clip was featured on Laura Ingraham’s Fox News program, prompting the host to ask, “When did our public schools, any schools, become what are essentially grooming centers for gender identity radicals?”

Libs of TikTok reposts a steady stream of TikTok videos and social media posts, primarily from LGBTQ+ people, often including incendiary framing designed to generate outrage. Videos shared from the account quickly find their way to the most influential names in right-wing media. The account has emerged as a powerful force on the Internet, shaping right-wing media, impacting anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and influencing millions by posting viral videos aimed at inciting outrage among the right.

In one way, Lorenz is perfectly right. Libs of TikTok does offer "incendiary framing [presumably] designed to generate outrage" as it presents its videos. On the other hand, the videos routinely show an array of lefty-leaning public school teachers displaying rather shaky judgment about the way they should or do interact with public school kids.

In other words, stupid claims about "grooming" accompany arguably stupid video presentations. Over Here in our self-impressed tribe, we ridicule the Libs of TikTok site for its inflammatory language. This lets us ignore the legitimate concerns which sensible people may have concerning the videos themselves.

At times of tribal war, overwrought members of warring tribes seek each other out. Bad judgment occurs in profusion. 

Tribal Group A can see how stupid and venal Tribal Group B is. Tribal Group B can spot the same grotesque shortcomings among members of Tribal Group A.

Wild misstatements are exchanged; people call each other names. By way of contrast, in a functioning society and culture, people seek out ways in which they can all get along. It's straight outta Goofus and Gallant, by way of the late Rodney King!

Our own blue tribe swims with bad judgment, as do all human tribes. As Drum noted, math problems about These Racist Conservatives Today can sensibly be viewed as one example of this unfortunate fact.

A dangerous observation: Tucker Carlson often starts his nightly show with a reasonably reasonable point. As a general matter-—though not always!—this gives way to embellishment, illogic and wild-name-calling by 8:02 P.M.


  1. Meh. There are no As and Bs, dear Bob.

    There are normal ordinary people (The Others, as you like to call them), and there are braindead liberals, your tribe. About 20-25% of the population; mostly pencil-pushers who haven't done a single day of honest labor in their useless lives. We all know the type.

    ...by the way, how many genders are there, dear Bob? As a liberal, surely you should know, n'est ce pas?

    1. Mao, There are many kinds of "others." Some are ordinary normal persons, as are some democrats also 9whatever a "normal ordinary person" is). You gloss over how the "others' include a lot of really crazy people also. Perhaps because you are a true believer type zealot. I must not be as clever as you because I don't know who you mean by 20-25% of our fellow citizens "who haven't done a single day of honest labor in their useless lives" And it's not clear what "honest labor" you ever did. Also, to answer your question, two genders.

    2. "You gloss over how the "others' include a lot of really crazy people also"

      Gloss over? What's your point, dear dembot?

      Dear Bob belongs to a tribe. Everyone else belongs to The Others, pluralistic aggregation of ordinary people of all walks of life. That's a given. That's what Bob's World is.

      And then dear Bob gets confused and starts bumbling about As and Bs. Take it up with dear Bob, dear dembot.

    3. ...as for you not knowing what honest labor is, we are not surprised...

    4. I've worked as a laborer in factories and other blue collar jobs. What have you ever done, beside spend all day on the internet stewing about dembots? I did become a lawyer, beats "honest labor" and the world does need lawyers (though there probably are too many of them).

    5. Okay, we believe you. And you also know the number of genders. And you don't exactly induce tribal solidarity in other resident-dembots.

      So, perhaps you're one of The Others, pretending to be dembot for some reason? Who knows. In any case, you say you're a dembot, so who are we to doubt?

    6. Gender is not categorical. It occurs on a continuum.

      There are some cultures where, if you ask people how many colors there are, they say two: light and dark. They see the wide variety of colors that their eyes perceive, but their society only needs two categories and only uses two words. Gender is like that. People come in a wide variety but our society uses only two names: male and female. Lately, some people have started talking about the variety and have begun to use some additional words (just like those societies that name red, blue, green, purple did) to talk about gender. Forcing a complex phenomenon into two words makes it hard to think and talk about gender. When a society attaches privileges to those two words, it makes it hard to change the categories. That is where the resistance is coming from -- those who like the roles and status that go with the designations of male and female.

    7. Mao is an example of a member of the conservative tribe.

    8. Andric,
      Do you know for a fact that Mao doesn't understand the first thing about economics?

  2. Today I read about a reality tv star who was harassed about her race by a coworker. The article called this "systemic racism," but it seems to come closer to the definition of "interpersonal racism.' I think when someone behind a desk, in charge of staffing and budget, ignored the harassment, then it's systemic.

    The textbook Drum highlights presents a similar stumbling block to see what racism really is. If you have dark skin, it might be important to know who is most likely to be racist to you, for your own survival, so I don't think the study is useless. The math textbook isn't wrong to say conservatives hold racist opinions in America. But it's not a fair picture of how racism really operates.

    Republican jihadis picked a great example of something that doesn't criticize systemic racism, ironically.

    I'd like to see bar graph count stories in the news covering global warming and student debt, you can even measure air pollution in white and black neighborhoods across the entire country. Kevin drum draws an equivalence to crime statistics. Ok. Let's see what civil asset forfeiture looks like in a math textbook. Totally nonpartisan. But it makes the government look like theives. Are we prepared to see the world that way?

    1. Somerby and Drum got suckered, that example is not from a textbook.

    2. This is important enough, because it will be used as a weapon against liberals, that people like Drum and Somerby should put some effort into finding out the truth about this so-called example. Skepticism should be in order, considering the source (Republicans). But drum and Somerby are quick to latch onto things like this. And if it turns out to be false, you will never hear a retraction or a single mention of it again from Somerby.

  3. "Meanwhile, for the sheer stupidity of which our own liberal tribe is capable...."

    You are beating a dead horse.

  4. The only thing Hillary Clinton was wrong about was the percentage of republicans who are deplorable. Obviously it is closer to 90%.

    1. Yeah she wanted to say white trash like her husband did

    2. Interesting how my reply to 6:13 has been disappeared.

    3. **

      5:04 said that Bill Clinton was called white trash by the elite beltway gatekeepers for anyone following along, which is true. A lot of people did call him that. But he won the endorsement of the Washington Post, literal beltway gatekeepers. Also endorsed by the New York Times.

      Similarly, Andrew Sullivan threw his weight behind Obama, actually seeing past his race to respect him him for the moderate Republican he governed as.

    4. You do know that Bill and Hillary Clinton are not running for any office?

      Given that Republicans have asserted that Bill Clinton raped women, that Hillary was a huge lesbian, the they murdered people, why wouldn't some Republican somewhere say that they heard Bill Clinton call people white trash?

    5. Yes, they endorsed him and then proceeded to cripple his presidency by hounding him for years over Whitewater and kissed Ken Starr's ass all the way. And then they launched their decades long war on Hillary Clinton (because I think she insulted Sally Quinn, wife to Ben Bradlee and grand dame of the Washinton DC social circuit) culminating in the ridiculous email insane hyperbolic and hysterical nonstop coverage which destroyed her bid for the presidency and handing us the horror show abomination Trump presidency. With friends like that you don't need enemies.

  5. "Tucker Carlson often starts his nightly show with a reasonably reasonable point."

    "Tribal Group A will make a reasonably reasonable point—but uh-oh! As it makes this reasonably reasonable point, Tribal Group A engages in wild name-calling and substantial overstatement."

    Then Somerby presents the example given by Kevin Drum of the use of the IAT test results in a math book. Kevin Drum may consider the IAT controversial, but he is not a social scientist and not a social psychologist (the people who use that measure in their research). He has no training in cognitive processing and no idea how implicit measures are regarded in cognitive science. In other words, Drum doesn't know what he is talking about.

    There are a lot of different versions of the IAT, only some involving race. When implicit racial attitudes are measured, it doesn't mean that anyone is being called a slobbering racist. That is Somerby putting words into other people's mouths. The textbook didn't say that, and neither has anyone on the left, among those who think racism is a burden on society to be eliminated if possible.

    It is a good idea to show high school kids what social science research looks like, how statistics are used, and how results may be relevant to their own lives. Why then is it bad to include this example? Kevin Drum only says that controversy should be avoided, but isn't there also controversy over smog and any number of other results that might have been presented?

    Obviously, the controversy Drum and Somerby think should be avoided involves race. But why should all mention of racial attitudes be eliminated because of white students? It is of great interest to black kids. Should math books be purged of anything black kids care about because white kids may not?

    Somerby and Drum show that they are willing to tolerate racism in order to avoid controversy. Perhaps Somerby thinks it is rude to admit that there are stone cold racists in the South and elsewhere because such people may be embarrassed. But how will peer pressure work to eliminate flaws in our society, if the wrongs are sanitized to the extent that everyone must pretend they don't exist?

    I get it that racist don't want to change their views. But must all non-racists tolerate their misbehavior in the name of harmony? I think those on the left are not being unreasonable when we object to condoning racism. I do not believe that the attitudes of racists are "reasonable" at all. They are harmful to others and thus should not be tolerated, much less condoned by colluding to hide the truth from students.

    Somerby never says why he thinks anything Tucker says is reasonable. Throwing away social science research because you don't like the results is not what any reasonable person should do. And Somerby's exaggeration of a desire to eliminate racism into name-calling others slobbering racists is an example of the kind of exaggeration Somerby wishes to pin on liberals, but that isn't what is going on when liberals complain about excising discussions of racism from textbooks. It is certainly what happens when Somerby decides to chide people here because we don't agree that we should all tiptoe around the racists in the room, because they don't like it when you confront them with their own behavior.

    1. Conservatives appear to be able to compartmentalize in ways that liberals don't. For example, they can vote for Trump despite his mistreatment of women, simply because he seems like a good businessman who will be good for the economy. Liberals don't tend to tolerate bad behavior simply because someone makes good movies or tells funny jokes. Conservatives don't care if a judge is corrupt, as long as he is their judge (decides in their favor when the time comes).

      I think this is a real difference between the right and the left and I tend to think of it as integrity. To the extent that Somerby can overlook bad behavior by Carlson and hear anything reasonable come from him, he is compartmentalizing and he is forfeiting his own integrity, in my opinion. It is akin to saying that Hitler wasn't a bad guy because he loved his dog, so we shouldn't be so critical of him.

    2. I'd bet Tucker Carlson kicks his dog.

    3. Have nothing to add, say nothing.

    4. What Somerby, in his haste to punch down, ignored with regard to the textbook fracas is that the only textbooks that Florida schools are allowed to use now are published by Glenn Youngkin's company.

  6. "Tribal Group A can see how stupid and venal Tribal Group B is. Tribal Group B can spot the same grotesque shortcomings among members of Tribal Group A."

    Somerby repeats his both-siderist false equivalency here.

    Calling someone a "slobbering racist" (assuming that has ever happened) is not equivalent to being a slobbering racist.

  7. Meanwhile, there is this about those math books:

    "There is, however, also evidence that this whole thing might in fact just be another cheap Republican grift of the sort that the DeSantis hivemind keeps managing to "accidentally" create. The Tallahassee Democrat reports that the curious outcome of the DeSantis administration rejecting the long list of textbooks it rejected is that there is only one remaining publisher whose books are approved for Florida’s regular K-5 math programs. Just one!

    That publisher? Accelerate Learning, based in Houston, Texas, a company that was acquired by Carlyle Group CEO Glenn Youngkin—who resigned a few years later to run for the Virginia governorship; once ensconced there, one of his very first moves was to, yup, ban objectionable textbooks from Virginia classrooms.

    That's a pretty odd coincidence in quite the string of weird Republican coincidences, especially considering that Accelerate Learning does not, the The Tallahassee Democrat reports, appear to shy away from the sort of terribly divisive "diversity" language that has Florida Republicans going absolutely batshit in every other venue."

    1. Dear Rubes,
      Anonymous at 9:26 is alleging Republicans are grifters.
      We need funding NOW to fight 9:26's lies. Please send what you can today.

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