Archive for July, 2011

Campbell’s Law

July 15, 2011

Campbell’s Law states:

The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to measure.

Community activist Diana Campbell, who as far I know isn’t related to the author of the above quote, essentially applied the law in a blog  on Bristol-Warren Patch that discussed the recently passed Voter ID legislation in Rhode Island. She claimed the bill, which was supposedly designed to protect against voter  fraud (an almost non-existent crime as evidenced by the extremely small  number of cases throughout the US), will disenfranchise significant portions of our poor, elderly and minority communities. Unfortunately, the people who replied to the post don’t seem quite as enlightened as the Campbells.

Among her many job titles, Diana is a member of the Bristol-Warren School Committee. So it’s fitting that I should stumble onto Campbell’s Law while reading an article by the former executive director of the American Mathematical Society on how politicians across the country are using mathematical intimidation to push their school reform agendas. Having written on the subject of how poor mathematics contributed to Rhode Island’s unfair funding formula, I was encouraged to learn that I wasn’t  the only mathematician speaking out about the injustices of the school deform movement.

I hope Diana, perhaps the person most responsible for getting me started on a path of political activism, will read this post and also be comforted to know she isn’t alone. The voices for the voiceless could always use some accompaniment.