It rained and then it didn't. I got in the car and went downtown to the radio station to do the Hines show. Apparently I had written some things and was expected to remember what they were. After half an hour they brought on the other guest. A Mr. Philips. A japester by trade. If you've been on the comedy circuit for a while, you have so many lines in your mental file cabinet that any line of inquiry can be met with an audience-tested line. It's no small skill, and if you've written them all yourself, it's even more impressive.

Thing is, this guy has a delivery that frames the jokes and makes you think the humor comes from the persona. But the lines themselves are often brilliant bits of writing. Very few people make me laugh out loud; he does.

It's here, if you wish; look for the episode that has, duh, us.

There's more about the day, good and ill; one minute you're having a great dinner with your daughter, and a while later you're looking at the frozen shrimp at the grocery store, thinking - it's $8.99, and it goes on sale for $6.99 now and then, but I have that sauce for seafood tacos - and the phone rings, and it's your boss, and one of your co-workers is dead. And then you go outside and the rain has not only stopped but the sky is clear. A mile later you notice the rainbow, and how the clouds left behind are so low you could touch them if you had a ladder.

Fast Eddy Driscoll over at Instapundit linked to an article that said "Math has traditionally been seen as the domain of old, White men," and I was keen to know where they went with that.

All over the place, as it happens. We're going to learn something together now. Let's call this our 19th Century Explorer Information Session, and since the time we're talking about is so remote from our own, why, this qualifies as studying a foreign culture! Which makes it okay.

So. Math needs to be socially conscious.

Math has traditionally been seen as the domain of old, White men, and when students cannot identify with mathematics—with role models who have been successful in math or with reasons that math matters to them and their lives—it becomes harder to stay motivated, particularly in secondary mathematics when the content leaves the easy applicability of grocery stores and bank accounts and becomes significantly more abstract.

In order to engage these students, math must have relevant applications and manifestations. Unless the students find a direct connection to their own world, they will give up. Why? Never mind. What matters is the fun we're going to have blowing up old stupid ideas. The premise is stated with the sort of elegant prose you've come to expect from the bold new thinkers:

In addition to what makes culturally responsive teaching challenging, period, there’s a myth that math is neutral—that it’s objective, abstract, rational, logical, and there’s always a clear right answer. After all, 2 + 2 always equals 4, right?

I'm going to go with "right," but I was taught by white women and men of varying ages, and am white myself, so my answers betray my cultural inflections. Back to the 2 + 2 = whatever site:

Marilyn Frankenstein, in "Teaching Mathematics for Social Justice: Conversations with Educators", tells a story she attributes to Marcia and Robert Ascher, in which a European explorer (presumably Francis Galton, the man who invented eugenics) agrees to trade an African shepherd two sticks of tobacco in exchange for one sheep.

When he offers four sticks of tobacco in exchange for two sheep, however, the shepherd declines; the explorer later tells this story as evidence of the shepherd's inability to comprehend simple mathematical reasoning and as “proof” of intellectual inferiority on the African subcontinent. But, if sheep are not standardized units, as there is no reason to believe them to be, then doesn't it make sense that the second sheep might be worth far more than the first? And then doesn't our premise of 2 + 2 = 4 look awfully naive?

Note: presumably Francis Galton, the man who invented eugenics. Why presumably? It's absolutely Galton. It's his story. It's in his book, as we'll see.

It is sufficient to call him a "eugenicist," because that says all you need to know. I have no sympathy with the idea, but I imagine it had its variants - the Sangers who wanted to reduce the Black population, the Hitlers who wanted to gas the undesirables, and perhaps milder-tempered people who wanted to encourage overall human potential. (Again, we're talking about the 19th century here, which entertained many ideas we find horrible today. Nowadays we take to the fainting couch if anyone strings together the phonemes that make up the word "imperialism," as if a country that set up shop in Africa, extracted its resources and brutalized the people, was the same as a country that did not rule cruelly and left in place modern cities and infrastructure. All the same: imperialism. Which of course is a sin unique to the West. No where else on the planet did anyone make war, invade, conquer, and subdue. Why, Spain invited its Moorish occupiers, and shed great tears as they left, hanging around their ankles and begging them to stay.) While the idea today is discredited as paternalistic racialist pseudo-science, that doesn't mean someone who thought it was a nifty idea was disqualified to have an opinion about other things.

Here is what Galton said, in 1869.

The best form of civilization in respect to the improvement of the race, would be one in which society was not costly; where incomes were chiefly derived from professional sources, and not much through inheritance; where every lad had a chance of showing his abilities, and, if highly gifted, was enabled to achieve a first-class education and entrance into professional life, by the liberal help of the exhibitions and scholarships which he had gained in his early youth; where marriage was held in as high honour as in ancient Jewish times; where the pride of race was encouraged (of course I do not refer to the nonsensical sentiment of the present day, that goes under that name); where the weak could find a welcome and a refuge in celibate monasteries or sisterhoods, and lastly, where the better sort of emigrants and refugees from other lands were invited and welcomed, and their descendants naturalised.

Now, this train may end up at Bergin-Belsen, but that was enlightenment at the time. Did he believe in a hierarchy of the races, insofar as some had better "stock" in general than others? So it would seem. Does this make him a racist, as the term is understood today? Yes, which is not entirely surprising in an 19th century intellectual. Would that color his judgment? It depends, but we'll get to that.

Remember that they say "it was probably Galton, the eugenicist." Here is a more complete biography:

Sir Francis Galton, FRS (16 February 1822 – 17 January 1911) was an English Victorian statistician, progressive, polymath, sociologist, psychologist, anthropologist, eugenicist, tropical explorer, geographer, inventor, meteorologist, proto-geneticist and psychometrician. He was knighted in 1909.

Galton produced over 340 papers and books. He also created the statistical concept of correlation and widely promoted regression toward the mean. He was the first to apply statistical methods to the study of human differences and inheritance of intelligence, and introduced the use of questionnaires and surveys for collecting data on human communities, which he needed for genealogical and biographical works and for his anthropometric studies.

He was a pioneer in eugenics, coining the term itself and the phrase "nature versus nurture". His book Hereditary Genius (1869) was the first social scientific attempt to study genius and greatness.

As an investigator of the human mind, he founded psychometrics (the science of measuring mental faculties) and differential psychology and the lexical hypothesis of personality. He devised a method for classifying fingerprints that proved useful in forensic science. He also conducted research on the power of prayer, concluding it had none by its null effects on the longevity of those prayed for. His quest for the scientific principles of diverse phenomena extended even to the optimal method for making tea.

As the initiator of scientific meteorology, he devised the first weather map, proposed a theory of anticyclones, and was the first to establish a complete record of short-term climatic phenomena on a European scale. He also invented the Galton Whistle for testing differential hearing ability. He was Charles Darwin's half-cousin.

He also devised a fingerprint classification system that is in use to this day.

In other words: a man of not-insignificant accomplishments, reduced to "eugenist" by the story-teller. Stories are important when teaching math, remember, because that's how you make them relevant.

Back to the story. Let's repeat the relevant bits:

A European explorer (presumably Francis Galton, the man who invented eugenics) agrees to trade an African shepherd two sticks of tobacco in exchange for one sheep. When he offers four sticks of tobacco in exchange for two sheep, however, the shepherd declines; the explorer later tells this story as evidence of the shepherd's inability to comprehend simple mathematical reasoning and as “proof” of intellectual inferiority on the African subcontinent.

But, if sheep are not standardized units, as there is no reason to believe them to be, then doesn't it make sense that the second sheep might be worth far more than the first? And then doesn't our premise of 2 + 2 = 4 look awfully naive?

Except that is not what happened. Why say "one assumes," when the answers are so readily available? It took .23 seconds for Google to spit back his bio, and from there you look to see his explorer period. It produced a book in 1858. The book exists on A search term reveals 69 examples of the word "sheep." Eventually you reach the part about the transaction:

When bartering is going on, each sheep must be paid for separately. Thus, suppose two sticks of tobacco to be the rate of exchange for one sheep, it would sorely puzzle a Damara to take two sheep and give him four sticks. I have done so, and seen a man first put two of the sticks apart and take a sight over them at one of the sheep he was about to sell.

Having satisfied himself that that one was honestly paid for, and finding to his surprise that exactly two sticks remained in hand to settle the account for the other sheep, he would be afflicted with doubts; the transaction seemed to come out too " pat " to be correct, and he would refer back to the first couple of sticks, and then his mind got hazy and confused, and wandered from one sheep to the other, and he broke off the transaction until two sticks were put into his hand and one sheep driven away, and then the other two sticks given him and the second sheep driven away.

So it wasn't a matter of the second sheep being worth more. It's quite clear that it's not the case. For one thing, he sold the second sheep for the same price. On the spot. Then Galton gives another example:

When a Damara's mind is bent upon number, it is too much occupied
to dwell upon quantity ; thus a heifer is bought from a man for ten sticks of tobacco ; his large hands being both spread out upon the ground, and a stick placed on each finger, he gathers up the tobacco ; the size of the mass pleases him, and the bargain is struck. You then want to buy a second heifer : the same process is gone through, but half sticks instead of whole ones are put upon his fingers ; the man is equally satisfied at the time, but occasionally finds it out and complains the next day.

It's not that they were incapable of conceptualizing what was going on, but they weren't used to it. They had no referent. It was a concept they didn't need, and so they hadn't come up with it. (More on other peoples in a bit.)


The Damaran believed in communal ownership of land meaning that no individual owned land as God had given land to everyone. Not for one to own good grazing land and the other to scavenge for land, but that everyone live in harmony. It was for this reason that a large numbers were displaced when the Nama and Herero began to occupy this area in search of better grazing. Thereafter the Damara were dominated by the Namaqua and the Herero, most living as servants in their households.

But I'm sure it was consensual.

By the way, Galton had high praise for another people, the Ovambo. (He called them the Ovampo.) He notes in the preface of his travel account that Ovambo are just aces:

The healthiness of the climate, the position of the country, the intelligence and orderly habits of the natives, their travelling and trading propensities, and, lastly, the ready access which it admits of from a healthy sea-coast, form most cogent recommendations.

In addition to these, though bordering on slave-producing countries, Ovampo-land is itself exempt from that scourge, and there would be one prejudice the less for Christian teachings to encounter.

Wht a God-bothering otherizer!

You can read the book here. Or you can read more about Radical Math, and learn how to Integrate Social Justice into the Math Class. BTW, when people seek to qualify or define Justice with the Social aspect, ask them this: You've been accused of a crime. You don't know what it is. There are two courtrooms. You have no idea who the judge and jury are.

Would you prefer the door marked JUSTICE or the door marked SOCIAL JUSTICE?



A two-page ad reminds us how much stuff Firestone used to sell. Gas AND things. Tires AND things! And other things.

No guards around those blades, because they didn't think you'd be stupid enough to put your finger or foot in the whirring blade.



The mysterious power of the Wagner. No power, no vaccum - but somehow it brought up the crumbs.

Well, most of them.





How did it get its name? Interesting story:

"DeRidder was named for Ella de Ridder, the sister-in-law of a Dutch railroad financier. Her family originally came from the small town of Geldermalsen in the Netherlands where she was one of thirteen children. She ran away from home at an early age and was presumed dead by her family who only recently discovered that she had traveled to the United States. The town was named for her by her brother-in-law who brought the first railroad to Southwest Louisiana."

How recent? Last year?

You can tell it's the place to go for law & stuff:


Something about that brick always makes a place look like it was done on the cheap. To me, anyway. Perhaps it was built by frugal people who wanted people to feel good about it, but not proud.

Pride was a sin.

Guess what this used to be:


It was a movie theater. Hard to believe now; there's nothing left of its old appearance. It was the Realart, and little more seems to be known about it.

The secret mastermind of the plot to rule the world with a Brainotron Gun would drive in here, and the floor would drop out and he would descend to his lair. What a great serial!



Of course, no, something else. Looks like a murder store now.

Well, lumbermen like donuts.



I always wonder if the banks in the middle of the block fail before the ones on the corner, or the other way around.

Why yes, I think it's quite possible this was a movie theater:



The Uptown! Opened in 1938, remodeled in '48.


Once a bank, always a bank - if you're lucky. A few years away from its 100th birthday



It's one of the rare buildings we've had in this feature where the name on the stone is still the name of the occupant. Might be the first.

Castle-style design, the thrifty way! Brick can do so much.



The Hinke Dinke was a grocery store, I believe. I've no idea qwhat it meant, except that they were trying to remind people of Piggly Wiggly.

Now and then you hit the button to see what it was like in, oh, 2007. Sad, hollow:



Burned? Fell down?




Let's end with a salute to the road crew of DeRidder. Town slogan: "We Dwell in Possibilities."


Possibly that sign had words and the bricks were glass. Possibly they will be glass again.


Dang, that was a lot. There was also a special mid-week column if you missed it, and of course Tumblr and this again tomorrow at great length. I should have the video tomorrow explaining the future plans for the Bleat. Less? More? The same? It's up to you!

(Okay, okay, it's a Patreon site for donations. More tomorrow.)



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