Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Math, Self-Esteem, the Jindals, and the McCains

There's a fascinating aside in Megan McCain's interview with Supriyah Jindal:

Megan McCain: I went to Space Camp twice as a child and wanted to be an astronaut growing up. I am still a fan of hers.

Supriyah Jindal: So what happened along the way that made you change your mind about becoming an astronaut? See, something happened.

Megan McCain: As I got to high school, I was told I was bad at math and got discouraged.

Supriyah Jindal: See, and there is no need for that. I am sure you were great.


I wonder why Mrs. Jindal is so certain that McCain was "great" with math. Isn't math the sort of subject where talent is reasonably easy to spot? It isn't like, say, poetry or political science, where a child's latent genius might easily go under-appreciated. If you're good at math--particularly the type of algebra, geometry, and elementary calculus which is taught in high schools--then don't you tend to, you know, do well in math?

The exchange is so wonderfully revealing. McCain doesn't say that she was bad at math, she says that she "was told" that she was bad at it. And Jindal immediately assumes that McCain was simply the victim of some Larger Force which didn't want the child of a powerful and important man to succeed in school.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is your Republican party. Good luck in 2012.

6 comments:

tom said...

You missed the best part!

Jindal: She [an aide] freaked out at me one day because she saw me doing a Sudoku Samurai.

McCain: Oh my gosh those are so hard! I can barely add! You do those for fun?


And since Republicans have enough problems without her, we should be clear that she isn't one. She's a Democrat who changed last summer to support her semi-Republican father's quasi-Republican campaign. At least David Frum has the history to fill out the 'Strange New Respect' stories.

Anonymous said...

You said:
"And Jindal immediately assumes that McCain was simply the victim of some Larger Force which didn't want the child of a powerful and important man to succeed in school."

I dunno. Isn't this one of those social situations where if the fat chick says something over the top and self- deprecating so that the listener is obliged to build them back up? Imagine if the exchange was like this:

McCain: I went to see the Olympics twice as a child and wanted to be a gymnast. I am still a fan of Kerri Strug.

Jindal: So what happened along the way that made you change your mind about becoming an Olympic caliber gymnast? See, something happened.

McCain: As I got to high school, I was told that I was a fat pig with the grace and rhythm of a drunk elephant falling down a flight of stairs and got discouraged.

Jindal: See, and there is no need for that. I am sure you were great.

Chicks just talk like that. I think what Jindal said was just good manners.

Alexander K. said...

"If you're good at math--particularly the type of algebra, geometry, and elementary calculus which is taught in high schools--then don't you tend to, you know, do well in math?"

No.

Do you really not think that children are encouraged or discouraged in particular subjects based on gender stereotypes, among other things?

I'm pretty conservative, but even I believe this to be true.

scriblerus said...

Anon 3.00: That was my read, too.

Alexander K: I'm not seeing it. I don't know this for certain, but I'm willing to bet that fantastic sums of money were spent on Miss McC's education. (Care to guess the sunk costs between her ears? I expect the bidding starts at a quarter mil.)

If she had real potential in math or science, I'd guess that, over the course of 15 years, some teacher would have noticed and cultivated it. It would have popped up on a standardized test. Something.

Remember, this isn't about being good or better-than-average at math and science. It's about being good enough to be an astronaut--which usually requires advanced degrees from prestigious universities. You really think she could swing that if she had been even more coddled and encouraged? Really?

Anonymous said...

that's asinine. Can we now claim that the children of elected democrats represent the democratic party?

I know you are one of those that want to remake the republican party in your own image, but use a little more logic in picking your targets to attack.

Anonymous said...

Girls are almost never encouraged in math and science, even in the most progressive schools. They're persuaded to avoid those classes.