Sitting with the head of the board of trustees of the Sidwell Friends School, decades ago, I listened as the parent of one of the students, opined about what makes a school truly elite. "The worst thing Boston Latin ever did was to abandon the requirement that every student master calculus. The place was never the same." This parent was a well known lawyer in Washington, D.C.
Speaking with a Dean at Vanderbilt University about my son, who was struggling to get past calculus as a freshman, I mentioned the last time I ever used calculus, which was required in my day to get into medical school, was on the final exam. "Oh," the Dean said, "But math is the language of science. You need calculus." I asked him what his academic training was. He had a PhD in Anthropology. (That particular student managed to squeak by calculus and got into Columbia P&S, a pretty elite medical school, and he went on to be a vascular surgeon without ever mastering polynomials or any math higher than arithmetic and the few bits of algebra which allow you to calculate doses of drugs per/ml, something the calculators and computers now do for you.)
Listening to an electrician's apprentice in Haverhill, I learned he had worked with his electrician sponsor for six years but could not get licensed in the state of Massachusetts because he could not pass the math portions of the electricians' licensing exam.
"What sort of math do you need to know to be an electrician?" I asked him.
"Damned if I know," he said. "Whatever it is, I don't know it."
"But," I asked. "When you are doing your work every day, do you use math?
"Nothing like what's on the exam."
There are many malign sources of injustice in life.
Looking at depictions of the 20th century, where injustices occurred in Army life where privates slept in the mud and officers slept indoors, and there were nasty injustices where Nazis seized property and sent Jews off to concentration camps, where Sophie had to make her choice.
It is any wonder there is anger in the heartland? Can you blame people for voting against Hillary Clinton, who they see as someone who embraces all that is wrong with how one class, the Mandarins, who are the professors of mathematics at elite institutions, keep other classes of people down?
Math and the way math courses are used in America is really just the prologue for Hacker. What he's really talking about is social injustice. It's about the process, now ubiquitous in America, of telling people who want to be veterinarians'' assistants, electricians, welders, paralegals, physicians, surgeons they don't have the "right stuff" when, in fact, the basis for making this judgment is fraudulent, and the fraud is obvious to anyone who has ever faced a 3/4/5 triangle question.
The tests used are obviously arbitrary and irrelevant to the jobs sought.
Like Zinn, Hacker looks through the status quo and past the hoary visages of the eminent professors to the truth.
Truth is actually a rare commodity in America today and Hacker uncovers a mother lode in "The Math Myth."