Most of America’s problems can be solved, says Severian, by mandatory Little League:
Jack wants to be a ballplayer, but he’s got no arm and can’t hit a curve. He’s got no natural aptitude for it, and if he doesn’t figure that out on his own — some kids have a preternatural ability to endure public humiliation — his coach will eventually take him aside and explain it to him. Coach will kindly but firmly point Jack to the Model UN club. Coaches are good at that kind of thing; they get lots of practice.
Jill doesn’t want to be an engineer, but after 50 years of feminism, her mommy is convinced Jill should be one. So Jill struggles in math class. She’s got no natural aptitude for it … but wait, that can’t be right! There’s no such thing as “natural aptitude” for academics! If Jill’s no good at calculus, doesn’t get fired up by solving quadratics, and never wanted to build bridges in the first place, it’s Patriarchy keeping her down. No teacher will ever take Jill aside and explain to her that it’s ok not to be so great at math, that calculus is the mental equivalent of being able to hit a curve — it weeds out most of us — because it’s the end of that teacher’s world if she does. So she doesn’t, and … well, you know the rest.
I herewith admit that I don’t get fired up by solving quadratics. I did, however, learn to do it, because math.