My child came home yesterday with yet another spelling worksheet that contained a misspelling. But that’s not why I’m writing. She also came home with a math worksheet containing complicated problems she’d gotten wrong, and it was clear that the teacher had never bothered to enlighten her about the isues in that worksheet (I did), but that’s not why I’m writing.
I’m writing because of what I though was an amusing math problem in the Houghton Mifflin math worksheet. As you know, HM is very, very, very committed to textbooks that reflect an America that the school boards want to see. Nevertheless, I’m pretty sure that the core material in these worksheets has remained unchanged for decades. So I’m equally certain that one of the problems, as originally written, read “Tony’s Deli prepared 52 sandwiches. The sandwiches were either ham or turkey.” Then, someone at HM thought, “Goodness, that stereotypes Italians as deli owners, and it doesn’t represent the rich multicultural fabric that is America. Either will prevent us from selling textbooks to California, Texas and New York. We’d better change it.”
So, as this moment in time, the problem begins “Yusif’s Deli prepared 52 sandwiches. The sandwiches were either ham or turkey.” Now, it is possible, of course, that Yusif is a Christian Arab, but do you really think that’s what the HM editor had in mind? No, I think in the editor’s mind, the vast multi-culti panorama was meant to include a Muslim. And the editor was completely ignorant of the fact that the likelihood of a Muslim even looking at a pig product package is so unlikely that the question as written becomes a huge multi-culti joke.