Weekend Reads: D&D Tones Down the Boobs, Nat Geo’s Cover Girl, and Down With Algebra II?
Happy Weekend Readers! Only a week left to do last minute X-mas shopping and/or last minute forgetting to do X-mas shopping. Get on it/or not!
If you have been playing Dungeons and Dragons as long as I have (since 1978,) then there are likely to be certain iconic images of scantily clad monsters of the female persuasion that stick in your mind and other less intellectual regions of your anatomy. Well the folks behind the games 5th Edition have taken steps to tone down the obviously oversexed critters, as well as spreading some of the sexy to monsters that the ladies might lust after (check out the abs on that Incubus!)
Speaking of fictional characters, Wonder Woman has had her honorary UN Ambassador status abruptly revoked for fairly specious reasons.
The Muppet Christmas Carol is one of my favorite interpretations of the Dickens classic. Scrooge himself, Micheal Caine agrees wholeheartedly.
National Geographic’s January 2017 special edition, The Gender Revolution, features 9 year old Avery Jackson on the cover. She becomes the first transgender person to grace the Nat Geo cover. I love her quote…
The best thing about being a girl is now I don’t have to pretend to be a boy
Something stinks at the University of Minnesota’s football program. Also, water is wet.
Two pieces critical of our education system this week. First there is The Atlantic’s Jessica Lahey looks at how our obsession with success damages our kids love of learning.
The truth—for this parent and so many others—is this: Her child has sacrificed her natural curiosity and love of learning at the altar of achievement, and it’s our fault. Marianna’s parents, her teachers, society at large—we are all implicated in this crime against learning. From her first day of school, we pointed her toward that altar and trained her to measure her progress by means of points, scores, and awards. We taught Marianna that her potential is tied to her intellect, and that her intellect is more important than her character. We taught her to come home proudly bearing As, championship trophies, and college acceptances, and we inadvertently taught her that we don’t really care how she obtains them. We taught her to protect her academic and extracurricular perfection at all costs and that it’s better to quit when things get challenging rather than risk marring that perfect record. Above all else, we taught her to fear failure. That fear is what has destroyed her love of learning.
And at Slate Dana Goldstein reviews The Math Myth: And Other STEM Delusions, by political scientist Andrew Hacker, and examines his claim that advanced math has become an impediment to learning, claiming that Algebra II in particular drives dropout rates in high school and even college students outside of STEM fields crash against the rocks of calculus.
So Hacker’s book is deeply comforting. I’m not alone, it tells me—lots of smart people hate math. The reason I hated math, was mediocre at it, and still managed to earn a bachelor’s degree was because I had upper-middle-class parents who paid for tutoring and eventually enrolled me in a college that doesn’t require math credits in order to graduate. For low-income students, math is often an impenetrable barrier to academic success. Algebra II, which includes polynomials and logarithms, and is required by the new Common Core curriculum standards used by 47 states and territories, drives dropouts at both the high school and college levels. The situation is most dire at public colleges, which are the most likely to require abstract algebra as a precondition for a degree in every field, including art and theater.
“We are really destroying a tremendous amount of talent—people who could be talented in sports writing or being an emergency medical technician, but can’t even get a community college degree,” Hacker told me in an interview. “I regard this math requirement as highly irrational.”
I failed Algebra II way back in 1986. It was the first failing grade I ever received and it was crushing. So I’m biased here. But I think Hacker’s work definitely needs a fair examination.
After this election… What can we do for our daughters?
Speaking of Muppets…PIGS IN SPAAAAAAAACE!!!!
Featured Image Credit: Wizards of the Coast
Edited to fix a typo (thanks Rose Fox)