When Marissa Lezama started taking remedial arithmetic classes at Miami-Dade College last semester the 18-year-old Southridge Senior High graduate was so far behind that she had trouble with even the most basic mathematic operations. “I remember the first question I asked her was what was the lowest multiple that you would have to multiply any number in order to make that number even. She just broke down. The girl was able to graduate high school without even learning to multiply by two,” said Professor Edward James Olmos (no relation to the actor). “It’s a travesty.”
“So she literally couldn’t even?” said this reporter gleefully, very proud of his turn of phrase. “Yes, that’s right, it is an example of how poorly we prepare our students in this community,” said the Professor without reacting to my subtlely clever wordplay.
“When Marissa first came to your class, and you asked her for the answer to that first question, did she say “I literally can’t even?” I tried again. “Yes, she was very embarrassed and began to cry. But I told her that with some hard work she would be able to catch up to the rest of the class,” said the Professor, again not playing along at all.
“Right, that’s great. But did she literally say that she “literally can’t even?” I asked with a frustrated chortle. “No, I don’t believe so…why is this relevant? What are you getting at?”
I then spent several minutes trying to explain to a stone-faced Professor Olmos that “can’t even” is a popular saying among young people on the internet and that the humor of this situation comes from the fact that because you can make any number even by multiplying that number by two, the fact that Marissa was unable to do so meant that she “literally can’t even.”
As I concluded with my explanation, Professor Olmos shot me a look of consternation, chastised me for wasting his time and making a mockery of Marissa’s effort, and told me he wanted to end the interview. “Because you can't even?” I asked the unamused Professor, causing him to just walk away.