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July 12, 2020

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it seems to me that one of the most profound insights you can have into a culture is observing which nouns get which gender.

It sure seems like it ought to. But I could never generate any particular insights into German culture that way. Perhaps because I couldn't find a pattern. The assignment of gender seemed strictly arbitrary and capricious.

Isn’t it utterly impractical? I really don’t get where this is going. If it’s a way to lead into something, let’s just get on with it.

On top of which, we also want them to be educated in those subjects in English. Not least, so they too can talk to the rest of the world. Do all education in Spanish, and their English vocabulary is going to suffer.

Interesting follow-on from this; studies of English as a Lingua Franca have been discovering that native English speakers, and particularly US and UK English speakers, are finding themselves at a disadvantage when doing business in International English because they are too idiomatic and too varied in their vocabulary. International businesses that are not primary English speakers communicate better and more clearly with other secondary English speakers, and that translates into more business deals.

Something to think about as the Anglo-American moment enters its waning years.

I’m referring to nous’ Spanish suggestion, if that wasn’t clear.

I type too slowly on this thing.

native English speakers, and particularly US and UK English speakers, are finding themselves at a disadvantage when doing business in International English because they are too idiomatic and too varied in their vocabulary.

It can be a problem. But it's not that hard to rein in the idioms. You just have to pay attention and care about communicating successfully.

On top of which, a positively astounding (at least to me) portion of the folks I do business with internationally not only attended college or graduate school here, but frequently worked here for 5 or 10 years besides. I can get pretty idiomatic without losing them.

On top of which, a positively astounding (at least to me) portion of the folks I do business with internationally not only attended college or graduate school here, but frequently worked here for 5 or 10 years besides. I can get pretty idiomatic without losing them.

I teach several international business majors every quarter. They can follow idioms, but I've heard from several that they recommend me to their friends over other instructors in the program because I try to gear my explanations towards international English speakers.

It's not as much about the difficulty as it is about considering the audience and gearing the explanations towards what makes sense to the listener. It's the halfway house between anthropological and rhetorical approaches - audience/cross-cultural awareness.

Well, similarly I try to adapt my vocabulary to my audience even when they are native speakers of English. I know some folks who, like me, have fairly large and eclectic vocabularies. But for general use, I have to rein myself in to be sure I am communicating.**

** It's a long-standing issue for me. Possibly because my parents never limited their vocabularies when talking to us kids. When I was in grammar school, on of the my classmates identified me one time as "the kid who uses the big words." I hadn't even realized I was doing anything unusual, but my peers noticed that I sounded like an adult.

I have the suspicion one could pinpoint one's position in Germany rather accurately by simply asking a local person the terms (s)he uses for half a dozen items of daily use (and maybe some minute grammar peculiarities). "What do you call a breadroll, a meatball, the day before Sunday? What preposition do you use for direction, in particular to the football stadium? What's the participle ending of 'to switch on'? At what time of the day do you switch your words of greeting?*' You won't even need to listen to the local accent.

I get the impression one could easily do the same in Britain with even higher accuracy (no need for a professor Higgins). Is that true?

*that may need an explanation: A common greeting is 'Moin!' (short for: Good Morning!). There is a strong regional difference up to what time of the day it is used before switching to 'Abend' (short for Good Evening!). In certain localities it is EXACTLY 4pm.

they are too idiomatic and too varied in their vocabulary

This brings to mind the time I was asked by Chinese and Pakistani co-workers to explain the meaning of "mojo".

The end of the Anglo-American moment. A phrase to be considered in every discussion going forward. A phrase, in nous context above along with whether we should teach everything in Spanish, that accepts the inevitability of the end of Anglo-American culture in this country and decline of any international influence. With no regret.

Isn’t it utterly impractical?

I think that covers it pretty well.

decline of any international influence.

Where you been the last 3 years?

I have the suspicion one could pinpoint one's position in Germany...

Since we're discussing communication, I'll mention that this threw me off. At first, I thought you were referring to one's social position rather than their location, Hartmut. Once I read through a bit, I figured out it was geography and not class you were getting at. It's the little things!

the Anglo-American moment.

Without looking to engage in any kind of argument about it, it's interesting to me that we seem to identify as an "Anglo" nation.

De facto, but not de jure, English is for sure the national language. But people who trace their ancestry back to England are a really small minority in this country. Even if you throw in Scotland and Scot-Irish, it's something like 10%.

The largest ethnicities / national backgrounds in the US, in order, are:


  1. German
  2. African
  3. Mexican
  4. Irish

About half the population of the US claims ancestry from one of those four groups.

English - meaning from England - is fifth, at about 8%.

Areas of the country where the nationalities listed above predominate are not culturally "Anglo" in any meaningful way, other than that most people speak English.

In early days, we considered publishing official national documents in both English and German. Because, Germans.

We pretty much all speak English, and we inherited a number of institutions from England. So, there's that.

But American "identity", per se, is pretty various.

Fun with statistics, that's true russell. I mean if you split Irish and English. Together the UK is the largest segment of our ethnic background. But, the Anglo influence on our culture was much stronger 20m Mexicans ago. Besides, Texas has always been mostly Germans and Mexicans, having nothing at all to do with the Anglo-American moment.

I mean if you split Irish and English.

I think they kinda did that for themselves, with no help from me whatsoever.

As ethnicities go, the UK is not together.

Could probably say the same for Germans, Africans, and Mexicans, although maybe not Irish.

But however you want to slice it, in terms of ethnic heritage, Americans are not particular Anglo. FWIW.

Texas has always been mostly Germans and Mexicans, having nothing at all to do with the Anglo-American moment.

As one example among many possible ones, this is my point, precisely.

Maybe it would be helpful if either nous or yourself could explain what the "Anglo-American moment" means, exactly. There certainly have been Anglo-American moments, just trying to figure out what it is that is passing that people are either not regretting or waxing nostalgic about.

The dominant influence of the British Commonwealth and the US combined making the English language the default for international communications?

the inevitability of the end of Anglo-American culture in this country and decline of any international influence.

Those seem to me to be two entirely unrelated issues.

First, I see no sign of an "end" to Anglo-American culture in this country. Sure, we have added on stuff from elsewhere. As we have been doing for a couple of centuries. But the core, and the vast majority of cultural features, remain. (The rest of the world has a far better case for having been overrun by American culture. Though even there, a weak one.)

I would also note that, as a reference point for Anglo culture, the UK has had significant immigration as well. For example, you are far more likely to find South Asian restaurants in London than here. Should we be working on that?

Second, our decline in international influence is entirely self-inflicted by our neo-isolationist "America Firsters." If we can boot them out, especially if we do so emphatically, we can get much of it back. (We are, after all, still the biggest fish in the sea.) Not all of it, as our reliability has taken a serious hit. But a few administrations with some sanity and competence will repair much of the damage.

ok, that's a reasonable response.

Is that the issue? If we teach school in Spanish, then the value of English as the language of international communications, along with all of the benefits it brings to us, is undermined?

That at least is, as a pragmatic effect, something to consider.

Is that what we're talking about when we talk about "Anglo-American culture"?

I'm asking because there are no small number of people running around either threatening to kill other people, or actually doing so, because their "culture" is "threatened".

I'm not advocating for teaching school in Spanish, and I recognize the benefits we (Americans and maybe UK-ans) derive from the dominance of the English language.

But I'm not sure that's what people are on about when they talk about the "decline of their culture".

Marty: ... the inevitability of the end of Anglo-American culture in this country

Long before there were Anglo-Americans, sic transit gloria mundi was a well-known lament.

The world keeps changing, and not always for the better. Sometimes it changes in ways that some people consciously want and others don't (e.g. the colonial rebellion of 1776); sometimes it changes of its own accord because people can't make up their collective mind about what decline is or isn't (e.g. climate change versus "beautiful, clean coal"). There's a name for people who see all change as decline, and "liberal" ain't it.

--TP

Re russell at 9:36

Looks like Ben Franklin was right when, in the late 1700s, he worried about the growing German influence here. But why is it we still speak English rather than German...?

Up to at least WW2 there were official versions of the US anthem issued in all languages spoken in the US (including as the iirc last entry Hawaiian), so knowledge of English was not needed to join in singing it. These days there is talk on the Right (including congresscritters) to not just make English the only official US language but to penalize the use of any other (at least by citizens)*. Some even drop the term 'English' and insist on American. Can't remember which high-ranking idiot even argued that it's the language of the Bible (so if it is good enough for G#d, it should be good enough for us/US).

*some seem to believe this is already the case and just insufficiently enforced.

Can't remember which high-ranking idiot even argued that it's the language of the Bible (so if it is good enough for G#d, it should be good enough for us/US).

I hadn't run across that. But I did once see a quote from someone here (I thought it was Amish, but probably one of the other, similarly inclined sects) about the need to be able to read the Bible "in the Lord's own Duitse [German]." So, not a bit of ignorance limited to one language.

AFAIK, the quote about "if English was good enough..." was from Ma Ferguson, governor of Texas.

https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Miriam_A._Ferguson

SERIOUSLY tongue in cheek, also, too.
Her constituents? Not so clear on the concept.

Then again, maybe misattributed to Ma Ferguson.

My vote is for Yogi Berra, then, who didn't say half the things he said.

But there is a serious movement that claims that the King James is the only correct version of the Bible (not because Jesus spoke English but because the Holy Ghost was present when the King James version was created and removed all the errors that had crept into even the Hebrew and Greek editions).
Somehow reminds me of traditional Islamic claims that the Bible originally contained the same info as the Quran (and all virtuous biblical characters were Muslims and called themselves that) but it got adulterated later by Jews and Christians.

Looks like Ben Franklin was right when, in the late 1700s, he worried about the growing German influence here.

It was also one of the complaints of the Essex Junto folks.

But why is it we still speak English rather than German...?

A reasonable question. Our political institutions were modeled on English ones? The founders were primarily English speaking, and established it as the de facto national language? It's the language with the most speakers, whether as first language or not?

I'm fine with English being, as a practical matter, the national language. And I recognize and have no particular issue with the international dominance of English as a de facto language of business and diplomacy.

I also recognize the historical association of the US and the UK.

What I question is the preciousness of some "Anglo-American culture" that seems to be, in some folks eyes, in "decline".

American culture is remarkably various, and English *culture* is not really a dominant culture here. Maybe in New England, sort of, maybe in the northwest where a lot of people with actual English ethnic backgrounds are. But in most of the country, not so much.

When people talk about "Anglo culture in decline", I want to understand what they're talking about. Because it's become something of a sticking point. People fight about it, including with bullets.

So, what's it about?

So, what's it about?

A label people can attach to whatever it is they personally feel they need to preserve, even if it's not quite the same thing for all of those people? Patriotism, Americanness (the "real" kind?), freedom, liberty, prosperity, goodness, honor, courage, family values - what do any of these things mean to a given person?

"Decline of Anglo-American culture" always sounds like dog-whistle racism to me. So obvious as to barely deserve a mention.

"Decline of any international influence." As others have already said, this has been efficiently achieved in the three and a half years of the Trump presidency. I think the extent of this is not realised by most Americans, let alone those of the rightwing persuasion. On the possibility of regaining it, I think it is possible but improbable, since wj's prescription seems overly optimistic given the necessary timescales.

But there is a serious movement that claims that the King James is the only correct version of the Bible

On this, and the contention that the Holy Ghost presided over the translators, I am prepared to agree. On the basis of literary merit alone, it goes without saying.

I think the better choice was made with English. It's a good deal easier to learn adequate English than German. Easier to pronounce too. The only thing missing and centuries overdue is a major spelling reform.
Btw, before spellcheckers became common, USians on the net quite often stuck out by doing spelling by ear (usually in combination with excessive use of the f-word).

what do any of these things mean to a given person?

Right?

And, for that matter, what is specifically Anglo or American about any of them?

Look, in the Applebaum thread, there's an article cited that profiles Laura Ingraham, among other conservative notables. Ingraham and folks like her are all about holding off the "decline of American culture".

I have, literally, no idea WTF they are on about. I don't know what it is that is threatened, that they are trying to preserve.

So, I'm just asking the question, in case anybody has an answer. Because those folks are all talking about civil war, and to be honest I don't see an upside there.

"Decline of Anglo-American culture" always sounds like dog-whistle racism to me. So obvious as to barely deserve a mention.

yep.

I don't know what it is that is threatened, that they are trying to preserve.

the supremacy of the white, English-speaking America that they learned about from black and white movies and TV. everyone should be some small, all-white, town in central Ohio where the contact with the outside world is optional - you can go to the traveling circus if you want, otherwise, stay home and can more beans. you can go watch that movie with the exotic setting, or not.

they want things to be as they were told things should be.

It reminds me of a guy I know from high school whining on facebook about Uncle Ben's and Aunt Jemima being retired as brands by comparing them to Mama Celeste and Chef Boyardee, wondering why Italians weren't calling for their brand retirements. Of course, he had no idea that "Aunt" and "Uncle" were titles used for black people by white southerners to avoid having to confer the respect carried by Missus and Mister. (Incidentally, the real Mama Celeste started the pizza brand that was later purchased by a large food company and Chef Boyardee founded the company bearing his name, so the quarter of me that's Italian-descended isn't sure who to be mad at.)

The real question for me though is how many f**ks can anyone really give about changing the branding on some breakfast foods or rice? Is that really going to screw up his day? Is his world crashing around him?

so, examples from my own life.

When I first moved from Philly to Salem MA, I lived for about 8 years in a neighborhood called the Point. It's a traditionally immigrant neighborhood, and is now largely people from the Dominican Republic.

All the old-timers complained about them. They didn't speak English, they had different habits, whatever.

No small number of the old-timers were the grandkids of French-Canadians, who moved to the Point when they immigrated here from Quebec to work in the factories on the Salem waterfront. And when they came, they didn't speak English, they were all Catholic, they ate garlic, whatever.

Right?

My sister and her family live in Phoenix. She and her husband moved to AZ back in the late 70's, first to Payson, which is basically back of beyond, and then down to Phoenix because the work was there.

They complain all the time because of all of the out-of-state people who are coming there and changing everything. All of the people moving there from Big Cities In California, changing that traditional Phoenix culture.

40 years ago, they were the out-of-state people, moving there from Big Cities In New York and changing everything from whatever it was before they got there.

Things change, it's just the way life is. You adapt, or you find some narrow little corner of the world to hide in, or you get run over.

My own personal understanding of traditional American values is that we embrace the fact that people come here from all over, and they bring their own special kind of weirdness with them, and it makes everyone's lives a little more interesting and a little brighter.

That's what *I* think American culture is about. It's what *I* grew up with, and what *I* think is distinct and good and maybe even unique about this country.

Those are *my* American values. They're no better or worse than anyone else's, per se, they're just mine. And the upside of that understanding of what this country is about is that I don't freak out and get all nostalgic if things change around me. It's just something different. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's a PITA, but whatever the old way was, was a mix of good and bad, too.

I don't find myself feeling the need to move away, or make anyone else go away, or go buy a lot of guns to keep the weirdos at bay. I find all of that to be to my advantage.

The kid who waits on me at the pizzeria wears a hijab. Who cares? Right?

Half the people I work with are from some other country. Who cares? It makes life interesting, doesn't it?

I know I jumped into this saying I wasn't trying to engage in an argument, and I'm not. I just don't see what the big threat is.

Lotta frightened people running around these days. I wish they'd find a way to get past it, because the world isn't gonna stop for them.

I have, literally, no idea WTF they are on about. I don't know what it is that is threatened, that they are trying to preserve.

Similar to what cleek said. What they want is to have the whole country be just like them. Or, at minimum, behave in ways that they are comfortable with. (Including, of course, having people like them in charge of everything of importance.) "Like them" including not just race, but culture, religion and ideology generally.

In short, it's xenophobia, just generalized.

FWIW - my comment about the Anglo-American moment was a reflection of what GftNC mentions above. The US and the UK are both retreating from multilateral international agreements and that is going to affect political influence and trade. The world can go on speaking English as a standard for business without either the US or the UK being at the center (or even a going concern for that matter, given the persistence of Latin long after Rome).

And my question about Spanish has nothing to do with any of this. I was asking because thinking about what that might look like is instructive for understanding the purpose of education. Defamiliarization is a useful tool for thinking through complex and emotionally weighted cultural discussions (that's what makes all good science fiction tick). Knock out one linchpin and see what happens. And since the conversation had been treating everything but English as a secondary language for the purposes of US education.

Is English a language course, or is it something else? At a school where half of the student body speaks English in the home and half speaks Spanish*, are English and Spanish classes to be structured in the same way or are they to be structured differently?

I don't know that there is a right answer, but I do believe that the process of finding consensus tells us a lot about what we actually believe.

*or whatever linguistic enclave the community belongs to.

Rewrite that comment in Spanish, nous, and maybe I'll give it some thought. ;^)

It's one thing to think about the purpose of education or what subjects should be taught. It's another thing to try to ask the question of how all this gets taught and what the resulting classrooms and infrastructure look like. And solutions require both.

mi comentario sobre el momento angloamericano fue un reflejo de lo que GftNC menciona anteriormente. Los Estados Unidos y el Reino Unido se están retirando de los acuerdos internacionales multilaterales y eso afectará la influencia política y el comercio. El mundo puede seguir hablando inglés como un estándar para los negocios sin que US o UK estén en el centro (o incluso una preocupación constante por el asunto, dada la persistencia del latín mucho después de Roma).

Y mi pregunta sobre el español no tiene nada que ver con nada de esto. Estaba preguntando porque pensar en cómo podría ser eso es instructivo para comprender el propósito de la educación. La desfamiliarización es una herramienta útil para pensar a través de discusiones culturales complejas y emocionalmente ponderadas (eso es lo que hace funcionar a toda buena ciencia ficción). Noquea una pieza clave y mira qué sucede. Y dado que la conversación había tratado todo menos el inglés como idioma secundario para los propósitos de la educación en los Estados Unidos.

¿Es el inglés un curso de idiomas o es algo más? En una escuela donde la mitad del alumnado habla inglés en el hogar y la otra mitad habla español *, ¿las clases de inglés y español se estructurarán de la misma manera o se estructurarán de manera diferente?

No sé si hay una respuesta correcta, pero sí creo que el proceso de búsqueda de consenso nos dice mucho sobre lo que realmente creemos.

* o cualquier enclave lingüístico al que pertenezca la comunidad.

The US and the UK are both retreating from multilateral international agreements and that is going to affect political influence and trade.

Thank you for calling this out.

And this is not the result of a "decline of culture" or teaching Spanish in schools.

It's the result of belligerently nationalistic foreign policy, and the general dickishness of the leadership.

We've squandered a lot over the last couple of years, and it won't be easy to get it back.

Gracias

I never did Spanish but I could actually understand that post (and not just because I read its Englisg version earlier). Looks even closer to Latin than Italian.

I could follow much of it as well. In spite of having never studied Spanish or any other Romance language. Guess growing up in California does have some benefits educationally, besides the obvious.**

** "The obvious" being the superb educational system that we had in the middle of the last century, when I was in it. Today, it's still pretty good, especially at the college level. But the grammar and high schools have suffered from a combination of serious under-funding (especially in the poorer districts) and a couple decades, a while back, of some well-meaning focus on being-supportive-to-make-the-kids-feel-good-about-themselves, to the detriment of focusing on actually teaching stuff. Mind, the kids do still learn well. Just not as well as they might have.

I took Spanish in high school due, largely perhaps, to the fact that the teacher was about four years older than me. And of the opposite sex. I can still count to ten.

[Mostly Google Translate's work, but I have enough Spanish to check and to get a feel for where there may be problems, and whatever mistakes Google made are mistakes I also would have made.]

I have a Spanish surname. It doesn't really help me understand Spanish that I can tell. My high school Spanish teacher seemed to think it might on the first day of class, because she asked me, in Spanish, if I spoke Spanish. Spanish surnames weren't at all common in my high school, so I guess that's why.

i have a Swiss surname. nobody has ever asked me anything in Swiss. :(

Being American is never having to say you are sorry in Esperanto.

"I took Spanish in high school due, largely perhaps, to the fact that the teacher was about four years older than me. And of the opposite sex. I can still count to ten."

She probably wished your mother had showed up and home-schooled you, sparky.

Some years back the giant cable company I worked for did customer interviews in East LA, with the intent of finding out how well the Spanish-language bundle matched customers' actual desires. The one thing that came out of it was that first-generation immigrants wanted news and grown-up programming in Spanish, but wanted all the music, cartoon, and other children's content only in English.

On a different note, the only thing I wish was different about my education over my life was four semesters of Spanish in college instead of four semesters of German. But I started as a math/physics major, and the college required that I take either German or Russian.

It sure seems like it ought to. But I could never generate any particular insights into German culture that way. Perhaps because I couldn't find a pattern. The assignment of gender seemed strictly arbitrary and capricious.

Mark Twain felt the same way 140 years ago:

Where is the turnip?

She has gone to the kitchen.

Where is the accomplished and beautiful English maiden?

It has gone to the opera.

Twain is also wonderful on the subject of Italian.

I always wondered if it would be beneficial if "English monolingual" families with young kids could pair up with immigrant Spanish-speaking families with young kids, to make a bilingual play group.

I have an aunt and uncle who taught English in the Far East, first in the Philippines and then in Japan. My two blond blue-eyed nieces spent much of their early childhood in Japan. One day a committee of Japanese parents from the neighborhood arrived at my aunt and uncle's door. They were very concerned that my nieces were a horrible influence because all of the kids were speaking a private language of mixed Japanese and English and none of the parents could understand it.

all of the kids were speaking a private language of mixed Japanese and English

That phenomena has been observed elsewhere, when there were kids of multiple language groups thrown together. As I recall, the kids routinely did this among themselves. But were perfectly capable of speaking entirely in one language when dealing with the linguistically handicapped -- i.e. their parents.

I tend to wonder why math and science particularly aren't taught from a more practical point of view, especially for kids who aren't otherwise too interested in learning that sort of thing.

Secondary math education in the US is in a bind. Speaking broadly, there's one track where there needs to be two. One track is part of the historical math track for engineers: algebra, geometry, pre-calc. Some high schools go farther, but the basic idea is that the students will hit their freshman year in college ready for calculus. The second track ought to something other than "getting ready for calculus and beyond." I'm not sure how to divide things up (I have two math degrees and high school was a long time ago, which probably disqualifies me from having a meaningful opinion). I sometimes say that I'd drop geometry for a year of practical* math, then let those not aiming for college stop after that.

* One of my masters degrees is in an applied (ie, practical) math field. The students who didn't have a bunch of math past calculus struggled. That's why I think my opinion on "practical" is largely worthless.

But were perfectly capable of speaking entirely in one language when dealing with the linguistically handicapped -- i.e. their parents.

Yes, I suspect the Japanese parents were overhearing their children plot with one another in a "language" that they knew their parents didn't understand.

Secondary math education in the US is in a bind. Speaking broadly, there's one track where there needs to be two. One track is part of the historical math track for engineers: algebra, geometry, pre-calc. Some high schools go farther, but the basic idea is that the students will hit their freshman year in college ready for calculus. The second track ought to something other than "getting ready for calculus and beyond.'

In high school, in spite of being in the university-focused track, I ended up one semester in something called General Business. In retrospect, it may have been the most valuable high school class I had. Among other things, it taught the basics of accounting.

Not particularly complex from a math standpoint. But definitely something mathematical that a lot more kids could stand to learn. Whether they someday end up trying to run a business, or just manage their household finances.

I ended up one semester in something called General Business. In retrospect, it may have been the most valuable high school class I had.

During my second semester at State U, my high school invited several of us to come back and talk to kids about preparing for college. At some point I was asked what were the most valuable classes I had taken. I was the math/physics guy and everyone thought they already knew the answer. They all seemed stunned when I told them typing (this in the days before PCs and keyboarding) and two semesters of speech with Mr. Beruder.

Typing was also my single most important high school course.

From a critical thinking standpoint, I could see teaching Geometry, but focusing not on typical HS geometry as a lead in to trig and calc, but rather to a combination of the sort of practical geometry I learned in drafting classes (including solving vector problems) and Euclidean/Non-Euclidean geometry to teach logical proofs and iterative thinking/learning. Work them through at least the first book of Euclid's elements and then give them Lobachevsky.

Would be a good theory/practice/application sort of exercise with clear scaffolding. And it would be a good opportunity to talk about paradigms and revolutions in thought.

Typing didn't make my high school most-valuable list simply because I took it in junior high. But for this engineer, it has definitely been invaluable.

Typing didn't make my high school most-valuable list simply because I took it in junior high.

My mother wouldn't let me use the typewriter until I'd taken a touch-typing class. The earliest you could do that (without significant money) in a small rural Iowa town was summer school, and the soonest you could get into that was after you'd finished 6th grade. I was at the front of the summer school line to sign up that year. Other than exams that had to be hand-written, I'm not sure that I've written anything longer than a paragraph or two in longhand since.

Touch typing anecdote... I went to work at Bell Labs in 1978. Over the next two years, the Labs eliminated the typing pool that had translated handwritten documents to final form for decades. Henceforth, engineers would write using UNIX tools. The Labs made the decision to not offer touch typing classes for older engineers. They must have lost hundreds of thousands of engineer-hours as talented senior engineers wrote technical memos by hunt-and-peck. There were days when I was ready to cry after watching my senior colleagues.

Would be a good theory/practice/application sort of exercise with clear scaffolding. And it would be a good opportunity to talk about paradigms and revolutions in thought.

Algorithms. One of the things on my list for a "terminal" math class is something with algorithms. I lean towards basic graph theory for that, but that's probably my background talking.

STEM people: learn typing, never willingly hand write anything ever again.

English grad students: spend entire summer copying out a Middle English poem (they already have in ms. form) in uncial in a hand made book.

The Labs made the decision to not offer touch typing classes for older engineers. They must have lost hundreds of thousands of engineer-hours as talented senior engineers wrote technical memos by hunt-and-peck. There were days when I was ready to cry after watching my senior colleagues.

Those days may come again. How well do kids learn touch typing when they start with a decade of "typing" with just their thumbs on their phones?

I never learned touch typing, after two semesters trying, however I tested at 40 wpm with two fingers and a thumb in my thirties. Not so fast now but I survived,

My mom took dictation on the typewriter, it was amazing to watch and skipped the shorthand step. Her boss did have to adjust and got her a pretty quiet typewriter.

I can't hear the phrase "practical math" without thinking of this.

And if you liked that,try this.

More seriously, I wonder why math education often doesn't include probability and statistics. My thinking is that these subjects have huge practical value.

More seriously, I wonder why math education often doesn't include probability and statistics. My thinking is that these subjects have huge practical value.

Same kind of dichotomy that I've mentioned in these comments already. There's probability and statistics taught for a terminal relatively low level math program of some sort. And there's probability and statistics as taught (at the multiple times) when I encountered it in my education, where you needed calculus, linear algebra, and combinatorics because it was going to be theory as well as practice.

Nothing frustrates me as much as people who fit some sort of simple model to data using Excel. Where, I ask (among other things), is the basic residual analysis to verify that all of the conditions needed to make that a legitimate model choice are satisfied? The cubic model COVID-19 analyses make me want to inflect horrible punishments.

Inflict.

die schreckliche Strafe
der schrecklichen Strafe
der schrecklichen Strafe
die schreckliche Strafe

die schrecklichen Strafen
der schrecklichen Strafen
den schrecklichen Strafen
die schrecklichen Strafen

eine schreckliche Strafe
einer schrecklichen Strafe
einer schrecklichen Strafe
eine schreckliche Strafe

(zwei/viele)* schreckliche Strafen
(zweier/vieler) schrecklicher Strafen
(zwei/vielen) schrecklichen Strafen
(zwei/viele) schreckliche Strafen

*two/many

Algorithms. One of the things on my list for a "terminal" math class is something with algorithms. I lean towards basic graph theory for that, but that's probably my background talking.

i quite liked the "Discrete Math" class i had to take in college. wish i would have been exposed to more of that stuff earlier.

Statistics, and curve fitting in general, are easily abused. ESPECIALLY in Excel.

Any "graphing/fitting" program that lets you click on a data point and move it, should be considered anathema and DIAF. I'm sure the MBAs love it though.

A course in "how to spot dishonest statistics" would be valuable, though.

I am still used to the purist dogma that effects smaller than the standard deviation are suspect no matter what the test of significance says. And the attitude of the guys in educational science currently trying to tell me otherwise makes me even less likely to change my views there. Which is admittedly no objective scientific approach and puts me halfway into the execrable camp of 'if this persons says it I cannot accept it, true or not'.

She probably wished your mother had showed up and home-schooled you, sparky.

I have to note how much this cracked me up. I'm not sure why. It's one of those instances where something hits the funny bone at just the right angle. LOL fo realz!

Typing didn't make my high school most-valuable list simply because I took it in junior high. But for this engineer, it has definitely been invaluable.

Ditto, except I took it in my first year of HS on the advice of my truly wonderful guidance counselor. She was the best.

Another class, but in college, was engineering economics, which was more or less a finance class. It taught me, with great clarity, how to properly think about money.

The most critical piece of statistics to teach, it seems to me, is sampling error and uncertainty/confidence intervals. If they get just that much, a whole lot of abuse of statistics becomes harder.

i quite liked the "Discrete Math" class i had to take in college. wish i would have been exposed to more of that stuff earlier.

When my daughter was in 7th or 8th grade she brought home this discrete math word problem.

I was driving home from work and realized I needed some small things from the store. I stopped at the 7-11 store on the corner and picked out the four things I needed. When I got to the cash register the clerk ran up the amount on a calculator. Our conversation went like this:

"$7.11," said the clerk.
"Seems a bit high. How'd you get that?"
"I multiplied the prices together."
"That's not right. You're supposed to add them."
"Okay." More calculation. "Still $7.11."

What were the prices of the four items? (Usual caveats apply: all prices positive, in integer dollars and cents, no rounding of the sum or product, etc.)

My daughter was appalled that I was so excited about the problem. She thought "guess and try it" was a stupid way to solve a math problem. I couldn't manage to explain that what was exciting was figuring out a clever way to have a computer do the guessing.

The lab where I was working at that time did informal lunchtime presentations every couple of weeks. I eventually did one on this problem, starting from the obvious code that took a day to find the answer, and working my way down to code that found the answer in well under a millisecond. The final version was something that a person could do in an hour or less. Good stuff.

I'd like to see a school subject "evaluating evidence", which includes checking sources as well as statistics and probability.

There's some material about assessing the quality of sources in my daughter's history syllabus. It seems to me to be too important to be tucked away like that.

Michael Cain, interesting. My first guess would have been that there is no solution without rounding since 711 is 3*3*79, i.e. only 3 prime factors.

Second guess: either
1) one price ends with 11, the others with 0
2) two prices end with 9
3) one price ends with 3, one with 7.

Maybe I should put some actual effort into it.

Hartmut, if you're going to convert the problem to cents, the product is not 711.

That became clear rather quickly. The sum would always be too small (I forgot btw that the 'missing' prime factor(s) could have been 1).
My second guess already assumed that it would have to be $.ct.
In a product the number of decimals is the sum of the decimal numbers of the factors, so in order to get just two in the end we need a lot of cancelling out (e.g. 0.2*0.5=0.10=0.1). To get a 1 at the end there are just a few choices .
I came pretty close with some attempts:
1+2.5+1.2+2.37=7.07 :-(
Which also torpedoed another guess that only one could be > 2.
But this hypothesis had implicitly rested on all values >= 1 anyway (but e.g. 0.9*7.90 = 7.11).
Must think more.

Dang! So close!!
0.75+2+2+2.37=7.12

For the sum to work out, at least one of the prices has to go to cents in single digits. But can more than one have anything after the decimal if there's no rounding, meaning you can't end up with something that has a fraction of a cent? It's really more of logic problem than a math problem ISTM.

All four prices are exact in terms of dollars and cents, eg, $1.97. No fractional cents are allowed.

It's a classic combinatorial optimization problem: find the optimal object(s) from a finite set of objects. In this case, optimal means "four prices whose product and sum are both $7.11 subject to some conditions". Interesting problems are almost always too large to simply enumerate the set. All the effort is using logic (and other techniques) to reduce the number of objects that must be inspected to something tractable. Here, I'll help by answering your question: all four values have at least one non-zero digit after the decimal point :^)

Takes about 5 secs for my desktop to find the #s, using only the fact that you don't have to try every number in the entire range from 0.01 to 7.11 for each #.

Alas, gone are they days that I had a programming tool still running on the currently used machine (even if it was an abysmal version of BASIC). I can support my deliberations with some basic EXCELing but it would still take a few hours to do it that way (me hating and thus not properly knowing EXCEL). I am still angry that my first attempt doing it pure pen and paper brought me something deviating one effing cent from a correct solution (see one of my posts above).

OK, I now have one solution (1,20 1,25 1,5 3,16). I will not check whether there are more.
Most of my initial assumptions turned out to be false. Ironically, one that kept up was that there would be no factor with a 2 before the decimal point (but even this was based on a wrong assumption about the nature of the second digits behind the decimal point).
A predominance of 0 2 and 5 had to be expected to get rid of additional post-decimal digits.

Takes about 5 secs for my desktop to find the #s, using only the fact that you don't have to try every number in the entire range from 0.01 to 7.11 for each #.

And almost certainly took less time to write the code than any sort of clever logic and solving the problem by hand :^)

When I was in graduate school and studying this kind of thing, and the prof was handing back homework with comments, a remark occasionally leveled at me was, "And Mr. Cain simply beat the problem to death with a computer." From time to time students were called to the board to explain something clever they had done so they could solve the problem by hand. I got called on a few times to explain how I'd trimmed the search tree for the computer.

The simple-minded approach -- try every number in the full range for every price -- requires checking 255 billion combinations. On my current Mac, in C, that takes about eight minutes. The most obvious quick improvement improves that to 350 million and takes the computing time down to a second. My best "trimmed" approach from that perspective takes it down to 2.5 million -- five orders of magnitude from the original and a compute time measured milliseconds. A somewhat different approach based on an integer formulation and multiplication factors gets it down to about 17,000 and a compute time in microseconds.

Practical applications? Almost every UPS truck that leaves a facility has every turn of its route pre-planned based on the packages it's carrying and scheduled pick-up stops. Making that work meant really clever pruning of the combinatorial search tree. UPS says the program saves 10 million gallons of fuel each year and another $200 million due to reduced numbers of trucks and drivers.

I was convinced that two of the numbers would have to have a product of 2, so I wasted a lot of time on that assumption.

Alas, gone are they days that I had a programming tool still running on the currently used machine (even if it was an abysmal version of BASIC).

I am the old guy in the Dilbert cartoon who says, "Here's a nickel, kid. Get yourself a better computer." I find it amusing that the stock Windows 10 operating system ($119) has no programming support. Even the stripped-down version of the operating system for a $45 Raspberry Pi system ($35 for the hardware, $10 for a micro SD card with the OS) comes with development tools for all of C, Perl, and Python.

I had the right idea at the start that one factor had to have something to do with 0.79.
But then I made the assumption that either it had to be 3*0,79=2,37 with the other 3 factors yielding 3 or that it would have to be 0,79 with the other yielding 9.
The correct answer would have been: one item had to be n*0,79 and the others yield 9/n as a product. That alone would have reduced the number of options immensely. The other factors would have to cancel out a lot, so the prime factors 2 and 5 had to keep balance (thus yielding zeroes) leaving only multiples of 3. For obvious reasons n could not be 7 (or it would have to show up somewhere in a denominator creating infinite digits behind the decimal point). That leaves so few options that a computer would not even be necessary.
Yeah, but that is hindsight again.

Visual Studio Community is free: C, C++, C#, F#, VB, Javascript and Typescript all built in.

hardest part about writing the code to find those numbers was dealing with floating point inaccuracy.

mine current code, fairly naive, does 442M tests before it finds the answer, and it gets there in 0.6 seconds.

So, formally:

A=n*0,79
B*C*D=((2^x)*(5^y)*(3^2)*n)/((2^6)*(5^6)*(3^k))
with n=m*(3^k)
k = 0 or 1
m=[1;2;4;5;8] (although 8 was extremly unlikely).
Not that many options actually. With n chosen, x,y and k are known. Now the primes have just to be distributed between B,C and D.

Visual Studio Community is free: C, C++, C#, F#, VB, Javascript and Typescript all built in.

But doesn't come installed, at least not with the version I got. You have to download and install it yourself. Xcode for Macs is the same thing (and the last time I did it, Xcode was a bigger download than the OS), but at least MacOS comes with Perl and Python as part of the base installation (OSX originally did many install scripts in Perl, then Python). I'm not willing to stretch as far as "They all come with a Javascript-capable browser" either.

hardest part about writing the code to find those numbers was dealing with floating point inaccuracy.

Yeah, part of the lunchtime talk I gave on the problem included the limits of binary floating point and deciding "how close" to 7.11 made a set of prices a candidate to look at more precisely. 1.0e-5 produces at least a few spurious answers. IIRC, if using single-precision floats instead of doubles, the actual correct answer isn't the best looking of the candidates.

mine current code, fairly naive, does 442M tests before it finds the answer, and it gets there in 0.6 seconds.

The fastest code I've got finds the 49 factors (all, not just primes) of 711,000,000 that are less than 356, loops over combinations of those efficiently, and finds the single correct answer in 17 microseconds (user plus system time, run a million times in an outer loop to get a meaningful measurement). Nesting the code in a different outer loop lets you find that $6.44 is the smallest value that works for four items, $6.75 is the smallest value that has two different solutions, and $10.53 has seven solutions. In 30 milliseconds.

Some information on the math topic.

Numbers With the Same Product & Sum

When Does a Sum of Positive Integers Equal Their Product?

hardest part about writing the code to find those numbers was dealing with floating point inaccuracy.

I can remember when you had to do as many adds, subtracts, and multiplies as possible before doing any divides. Otherwise, you lost significant bits fast.

Hartmut, prime allocation along the lines of what you did is the only way I've ever found of doing this by hand. OTOH, I've never found a way to do explicit prime allocation that's as fast on the computer as the method of finding the relatively small number of candidate factors and searching over the combinations of those.

Floating point inaccuracy? The code should work in integers, finding cent amounts. The cent numbers have to multiply to 711,000,000: it's just a question of partitioning the prime factors.

I can remember when you had to do as many adds, subtracts, and multiplies as possible before doing any divides. Otherwise, you lost significant bits fast.

Within the last few years, I was trying to duplicate the results in a not-so-old published paper to use as a starting point for some research. I couldn't afford the modeling tool the authors had used, but there was a spec for the tool and I could reproduce the functionality I needed in a different language. My results started deviating from the published ones almost immediately (it produced projected time series) and the problem got very bad, very quickly. Change-the-conclusions kind of bad.

Long story short, I figured out that the tool was doing fixed-point simulated decimal arithmetic with not very many digits instead of hardware floating point. It shed significant digits very quickly and so the interesting parts of the projection were total garbage.

I was given to understand that the people who sold the model were stuck with fixed point because their users wouldn't accept a change that produced different results from old models.

Floating point inaccuracy? The code should work in integers, finding cent amounts.

i'm just saying: 0.6 seconds and it took me like 5 minutes to write.

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