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)

Louis Doench

Lou Doench is a 52 year old father of three. Twelve years ago he married the coolest woman in the world and gave up the lucrative career of being a photography student to become a stay at home husband and Dad, or SAHD. An atheist geek, or a geeky atheist if you prefer, Lou likes reading, photography, video gaming, disc golf, baseball and Dr. Who. He has been playing Dungeons and Dragons since 1976. Born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. He is also an excellent home cook, not that his children would know because they only eat Mac & Cheese. Follow Lou on Twitter @blotzphoto or check out his photography at

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  1. the first transgender to grace the Nat Geo cover

    I think you mean the first transgender person. Transgender is an adjective in U.S. English, not a noun. (Other Englishes vary.)

  2. Re:Math requirements.
    Lack of a clear and common goal for education seems like a problem with this kind of stuff.
    I think the assumption that every class should be rated on it’s practical value is probably misguided.
    It leads to all sorts of silly arguments (like reading shakespeare is necessary to build empathy or that music makes better engineers) loved by people who love those things for reasons that have about 0% to do with building better empathetic, musical engineers.
    Advanced math (and even pretty rudimentary math) is not necessary for many jobs. Literary analysis even less so and there is no reason to think playing in band is more important to learning engineering than an engineering class.
    Sports does not make you a harder worker with better ethics.
    Maybe if we stopped trying to argue all learning is to service practical goals we could talk about the value we do find in those things honestly.

    1. I don’t disagree at all about the folly of treating every subject in school as future job training. Much of what we teach is best understood and teaching our kids how to learn so that they can continue to learn. I appears, according to Hacker, that the subject matter in Algebra 2 is failing at that task by creating such a barrier to advancement for so many students. I’m especially concerned that an incredible amount of really useful day to day math skills, like understanding statistics and such are actually hidden behind the Algebra 2 firewall, offered as senior year electives rather than part of the core curriculum.

  3. And I’m like “Dude, polynomials aren’t that hard.” Logarithms can be, though. (Logarithms and trig were my big weaknesses in high school math.)

    Actually, polynomials aren’t that different than when you add, subtract, or multiply numbers with multiple digits. In fact, for multiplication, it’s all just another variant of (a+b)(c+d)=ac+bc+ad+bd.

    Wonder Woman has, let’s see: Gay icon, canonically bisexual, played by an Israeli…Any number of those reasons could be why the UN had issues with her. (The UN is great in theory, but Keith Harper could tell you stories about the Human Rights Council being stacked with countries like Saudi Arabia, Russia, and North Korea. Yikes!)

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