April 12, 2019
SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA — The California state Senate approved a bill to permanently alter the value of 2 + 2 to five (5) within the state of California. The bill, motivated by activists claiming “all numbers are created equal”, was introduced to the State Assembly on Monday as an educational reform. After passing with a near-unanimous 75-2 vote, it then moved to the Senate. Progressives in the Senate then voted 34-4 in favour of the bill, when it was sent to governor Gavin Newsom to become law.
When proponents were asked about the bill, they said it was a “necessary step” towards encouraging students to accept facts and not to think critically. “We feel that in order to make progress, the state of California needs to embrace radical thought,” a representative was quoted as saying. “Just because students are taught 2 + 2 is 4 from an early age shouldn’t prevent them from having their own way, unquestionably.”
One of the bill’s main advocates has been Jessica Hsiung, a freshman at UC Berkeley. “As someone who has advocated for minorities’ rights several times in the past, making sure numbers are treated in an egalitarian manner was just the natural next step for me to take,” Hsiung said. “The number 4 has been overused for years — it’s the result of 2 plus 2, 2 times 2, and 2 to the second! It’s simply unfair that 4 gets this much time in the spotlight, while 5 is forced to sit on the sidelines, being a so-called ‘odd’ number. This kind of label discriminates against and judges these poor numbers, despite the fact that they make up almost half of the integers.” Unfortunately, Hsiung had to leave at this point in order to take her Math 101 exam, where she reportedly received full marks for answering 2 + 2 in a 1000-word essay.
Other activists have supported the bill, too. “I’m a fan of the freedom of thought,” said UCLA senior Katherine Brown. “As an education major, making sure future children can know 2 + 2 is whatever they want it to be — whether that’s 4, 5, or anything else — needs to be our top priority. This could free them up to better develop their own world-views, free of this rigid structure that they are forced into. When I teach children as an intern, I’ve noticed many children lose points by saying 2 + 2 = 5, preventing them from getting good grades. Changing this fundamental principle could give opportunities to these learners, who are in fear of being wrong all the time. Now, everyone’s right.”
While this may be the case, students at other institutions have expressed their concerns over the new law. For example, Caltech’s George Peng said, “As a math major, I have to be concerned about the consequences of this new law with the associative property. For example, 2 + 2 + 1 = 5, but (2 + 2) + 1 = 5 + 1 = 6, which clearly causes major problems. While at the elementary school level, this should work just fine, the implications into higher mathematics — such as 5th grade — cannot be ignored. I’m not ready to buy two pairs of shoes and get charged for five of them.”
The backlash from the technical community isn’t surprising at all, given that 2 + 2 is such a foundational concept. How this will factor into other laws remains to be revealed by later legislature. Likewise, its interactions with federal law still need to be defined. One thing becomes clear though — 2 + 2 = 4 is now an antiquated concept, a relic of the past, reminiscent of the structured thinking of yesterday.