Math Geek Mom: The Center of our (Political) Landscape

There is a concept in geometry known as the “centroid” of a triangle. This is the point at which the lines joining the corners of a triangle and the midpoints of the opposite sides meet. If one were to balance the triangle on the tip of a pencil, it would balance at the centroid, which is actually the center of gravity for the triangle. I found myself thinking of this concept these past few weeks as I was bombarded by political ads on TV and the radio. It seems that for a few weeks, every four years, Ohio is the center of attention of the political landscape for our country.

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November 1, 2012

There is a concept in geometry known as the “centroid” of a triangle. This is the point at which the lines joining the corners of a triangle and the midpoints of the opposite sides meet. If one were to balance the triangle on the tip of a pencil, it would balance at the centroid, which is actually the center of gravity for the triangle. I found myself thinking of this concept these past few weeks as I was bombarded by political ads on TV and the radio. It seems that for a few weeks, every four years, Ohio is the center of attention of the political landscape for our country.

These last few months have been ones in which those of us in Ohio have been bombarded by political advertisement and by phone calls. This has been so intense that we have, unconsciously, adjusted our behavior to help us survive in this environment. We are careful to screen calls based on caller ID, and some people hang up quickly if the caller does not identify themselves immediately, as they assume that the call is of a political nature. I quickly erase many political messages that show up on my various e-mail accounts, and I even received a phone call a few nights ago from someone from the West coast asking me to volunteer between now and Election Day. I politely declined, saying that my husband would be volunteering, but that I had responsibilities as a mother that would prevent me from joining him right now.

This made me wonder what responsibility as a mother is more important than assuring my daughter grows up in a country that reflects my values. Could buying groceries and paying bills and making sure that her homework is done really be more important than helping to influence the future of our country? Still, the thought of adding one more thing to my list of things to do right now was just overwhelming. I wonder how my readers manage to balance their duties as parents and their desire to participate in civic engagement, all while fulfilling their duties in higher education. Is anyone able to manage to do all three at the same time? I see myself as drawing my daughter into the political arena as she grows older, but for now, that is not something that I can do, and certainly not something I can do effectively.

This election cycle has been one in which the entire country has been watching Ohio closely. With 18 electoral votes in play, and no clear winner for the presidential race, most political commentators assure us that whoever wins the election will need to win Ohio. We have therefore seen candidates and their workers crossing our state on a daily basis. Indeed, one news source said that one of the candidates might as well just move to Ohio. It is not that we don’t like all of this attention. However, I kind of feel used, as no one pretends that Ohio will draw just as much attention after the election as it does now. I suspect I will feel like a dumped lover on November 7th.

I have been encouraging my students to register and vote, being careful to say “I don’t care who you vote for, just get out and vote.” So far, it looks like most of them are planning on voting, or have done so already (in Ohio, we have been able to vote for a few weeks.) However, I still cringe when I hear about the percentage of eligible voters who actually vote in elections, and therefore want to remind all of my readers, both in and out of Ohio, to vote. I know you probably don’t need reminding, but just in case you do, PLEASE go out and vote on Tuesday. My daughter and her peers are counting on you!

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