Parable of the Board Member

Finances were the topic during a board meeting for an organization. Spreadsheets were on the table with columns of numbers and all of the math symbols—addition, subtraction, division, multiplication.

One board member asked, “What are all those lines, the crosses, the dashes, the double dashes (equal signs) and all of that?”

Other board members explained that they are mathematical symbols indicating mathematical operations.

He replied, “I don’t know those symbols or this mathematics you speak about.”

Everybody else was surprised. They said that knowledge of math is required when analyzing finances, and that in order to participate constructively in this conversation, he would have to learn math.

The board member said that he didn’t need math, that he could determine the right numbers by what he feels, and that his opinion was just as good as any other.

Other board members were again surprised and said that math doesn’t work that way.

The board member insisted that he was right and insisted his numbers be used.

The other board members said, “Sir, it’s clear that you don’t understand math. It’s clear your conclusions are founded on invalid reasons and incorrect information. As long as you apply invalid methods in your analysis, we have to ignore what you say.”

The board member responded, “Well, math isn’t everything. I can reach my own conclusions without learning anything more.”

The other board members rightfully ignored him.


We all have access to millions of opinions and ideas. We don’t have time to listen to all of them.

Almost all discussions of public policy are based on logical argument, facts and factors.

It’s not worth listening to those who don’t use relevant facts and factors or don’t have a reasonable case. Those who comment on public policy with invalid logic or falsehoods can be ignored and dismissed.

Post Script

“That what can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.”
Christopher Hitchens