Thursday, 20 April 2017

Useless, hopeless, rubbish and crap

I've commented before about this rather annoying tendency, and I'm going to comment again.

Why do so many people in the creative industries boast about not being good at maths? Or something like physics, come to that. It's not even - oh, I was better at English/History/Art and my maths was OK - oh, no! To do the true boast you have to say you were useless, hopeless, terrible, rubbish or totally crap at maths. And add a little grin or chuckle.

How many people in those professions would want to own up to being bloody dreadful at reading or writing? And, apart from slinging a few insults at the duller and more obscure aspects of grammar, who wants to boast about being a complete dud at English? Not many.

This tendency has long been commented on, for example in C.P.Snow's lecture The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution. In this passage, Snow remarks on the (literary) intellectuals who bemoan the illiteracy of scientists:

“A good many times I have been present at gatherings of people who, by the standards of the traditional culture, are thought highly educated and who have with considerable gusto been expressing their incredulity at the illiteracy of scientists. Once or twice I have been provoked and have asked the company how many of them could describe the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The response was cold: it was also negative. Yet I was asking something which is about the scientific equivalent of: Have you read a work of Shakespeare's?”

I would certainly never employ a planner who claimed to be crap at maths. Or an account manager, brand manager or even a creative. Except in a few rare cases, everyone can be OK at maths. It just requires a bit of work, like everything else. I wouldn't want anyone working for me who had no feel for numbers and statistics and what meaning one can find in them. Or who was deliberately clueless  about how much of our world today works - money and markets, algorithms, Google - you name it.

Quite apart from the fact that maths trains the mind in puzzle-solving, in a particular way of thinking.

Having said all that, there is hope. A lot of those 'useless at maths' people can be spotted solving Sudoko puzzles. And not being so bad at it at all.  


Barbara Fisher said...

Sue you can be quite fierce want you want to be! Dare I say I’m not very good at maths? Actually, I’m OK at maths, but I just wanted to see your reaction. There that feels better doesn’t it – smile, go on you know you want to ... and breathe.

Sue Imgrund said...

I was feeling a bit bristly when I wrote that! :)

Barbara Fisher said...