Buried among prairie dogs and amateur animation shorts on YouTube is a curious little mini-documentary shot in front of an abortion clinic in Libertyville, Ill. The man behind the camera is asking demonstrators who want abortion criminalized what the penalty should be for a woman who has one nonetheless. You have rarely seen people look more gobsmacked. It's as though the guy has asked them to solve quadratic equations.
What? It's as though they've been asked to add 1 and 1? Come on! Few things in life are easier than solving quadratic equations. We teach it in high school, or junior high.
Is the state of mathematical knowledge in our society really in such a shambles? Is a smart commentator like Quindlen really using quadratic equations as a metaphor for the most challenging conundrums life has to offer?