The Blog

Showing My Algebra Is a Chore

This piece is in response to a piece published in “The Columbia Beacon,” which in turn was published in response to an op-ed in the “Columbia Daily Spectator.”

I hated showing my work in math class.

No, seriously, I hated it.

Take 3(4x +7) = 45. I’m sure all of you remember how to prove that this obviously is true. You have to rewrite the equation to distribute the 3 into 4x+7 to get 12x + 21 equals 45. Then, you have to subtract 21 from both sides to get 12x=24. And finally, you divide both sides by 12 to get the answer, x =2. This, again, being obvious, I would just write the answer, x=2. It wasn’t as if math stopped working if I didn’t write out the three steps on my homework along with the answer. The answer would always be two, so why did I have to waste what little energy I had on one of 46 questions I had every evening for homework?

That argument did not save me from losing points on my assignments in 7th grade.

While I love questions about how a government operates and how we justify government action much more than I loved my algebra proofs, I can see why it’s tedious. Sure, prosecutors should focus on true threats to the community and not otherwise law-abiding citizens, the executive branch in the modern era is given significant discretion on how to enforce legislation; it’s fine if the de facto result of prosecutorial discretion means that a certain group of people already determined as safe have some guarantee of safety; and amnesty through this understanding is not the worst thing that has happened to the American rule of law. But did saying any of that make it truer? Would not saying that make it falser? Life, like math, doesn’t change absent the work that went into it. And while proving these complex questions of political theory makes one a better debater, debating the validity of one’s life to everyone who asks is an exhausting exercise of existentialism.

So sure, Joey, we should show our work to the teacher. Maybe it should be in op-ed form, or The Lion, or re:claim, for the sake of posterity. But I think, to stay in math class a moment longer, Undocu is tired of algebra and wants to move on to Accelerated Multivariable Calculus, and would be happy to debate Accelerated Multivariable Calculus, but you insist on debating algebra, and there’s only so many times they can write x=2 before 800,000 pencils snap in unison. I think that’s what they mean by “reconstructed.” Most people don’t question the virtue of DACA recipients. Most Trump-reluctant Republicans prefer to look like they’re being helpful on the issue as is.

And I’m sure you could make a wonderful argument in Accelerated Multivariable Calculus without writing MS minus 13.


If you’d like to submit an op-ed to The Lion, email

Comments ( 3 )
  • Johnathan says:

    Hithertoo there has never been such a display of the wondrous sumbline. Like a heliotrope caught adrift in the entropic sway of the windy winds, I have lived, apart from all that is beautiful. Oh eternal word, how this piece captures the immutable interpolation between number and man. I entreat, how I have lived a life without experiencing the orgastic pleasure of Ufon’s delicate prose. Enlighten me fair muse, take me under your supple wing and teach me your song, deny me beauty no more.

  • Joseph Siegel says:

    I appreciate the response Ufon. What I think you’re forgetting, however, is that the nature and justice of prosecutorial discretion and executive fiat are not just the means to the end of this issue–these things are in fact the crux of the issue at hand (the issue being the Trump administration’s rescission of the DACA order, to which the original op-ed was ostensibly replying). Trump wasn’t debating whether dreamers should be deported or not and neither am I–on that point we all agree. But can the executive award positive legal rights (at least within the current constitutional framework)? The reason no one should take this issue for granted is because, unlike 3(4x +7) = 45 which everyone does agree upon, we do not in fact agree. If you’re not interested in that question, perhaps politics is not for you- that goes for the author of the original op-ed as well.

    P.S. If the original author was trying to make a meta argument about how all of the ‘tedious’ legal questions were underlying illegal immigrants’ “humanity,” they did not make that very clear, nor did they attempt to define “humanity” or the steps by which one goes about denying it.

    • Ufon Umanah says:

      Do not question my interest in politics, this alone generated a paragraph in response.
      As to the question “can the executive award positive legal rights (at least within the current constitutional framework),” I think you mean should the executive grant positive legal rights. The president already has the power to pardon, which is to eliminate penalty for crimes definitely committed, as we saw most recently with Sheriff Apario and his contempt of court. Pardons are a act of mercy, in most cases personal, that arguably can have a corrosive effect on the rule of law, but the president has the power regardless, and that is a question of constitutional power. Reading summaries of the United States v. Texas decision, which wasn’t decisively ruled on in the Supreme Court so I presume the next liberal administration will try again, much of the relevant case, US v. Texas, revolved around whether Obama could forward DAPA without a comment and notice period. Drivers’ licenses were used in that case to establish standing, and if immigration is a law, then the president can pardon, which would (rightly or wrongly) nullify state prerogative to enforce unless there were state immigration laws, which on short reading might cause its own federalism crisis.
      Regardless, I think to most people, saying we should deport Dreamers vs. we have to by law are equivalent statements. Especially when law itself is an act of interpretation by judges, some of them elected officials who have an incentive to interpret said law in a partisan way. If that lack of distinction is the issue, then we should divorce the law from politics somehow, this being its own constitutional framework, but as to what was the original question, within the office of the executive we have invested so many tools of enforcement, that often questions of presidential authority come down to whether Washington wants to go home or not.

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