Thursday, October 20, 2011

First published in the
USC Daily Trojan

NOTE: Comments on this article take a turn no one will have expected, beginning with our own Jett Rucker re the "statistics" of the Holocaust. You might decide to comment yourself.
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Students Must Learn to Question Statistics

By MAYA ITAH · Daily Trojan
You're the 99 percent.
Thanks to the Occupy Wall Street protests, that statement is now full of negative connotations: debt, joblessness, misery.
Still, look at the number - what does it actually say?It's easy to see why statistics are appealing. They have the power to make broad claims seem concrete.In a tidy manner, they tell us the scope and seriousness of the problems we face.
Unfortunately, people often arrive at those tidy figures in a disorganized fashion. Few people are dishonest enough to completely falsify their numbers, but many popular statistics create a deceptive picture of reality.
Because new media proliferates statistics at a greater rate than ever before, all levels of education need to address the issue of misleading statistics. Students should come to college with basic skills in statistical analysis.
Take the divorce rate for example. If you've heard (and believe) America has a 50 percent divorce rate, you're not alone. I took that statistic at face value for a long time, having read it again and again.

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