Teaching Evolution

A blog devoted to teaching evolution, both in our schools and in our communities.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Journalists and Numbers

This great column details how many journalists just plain have an aversion to numbers. That has always really bothered me. There's a 10-question quiz at the end of the column, and it pains me to realize that many journalists wouldn't score 10 for 10. There's no reason anyone with an education beyond ninth grade shouldn't know all of them. But regarding No. 9, a couple of points: The obvious one is that a 100% graduation rate couldn't possibly be NEAR the top, it would have to be, by definition, the top. I don't think many schools are graduating more than 100% of their students.

But here's the less obvious and more important one: The news media ALWAYS report high graduation rates as if high=good. It never seems to occur to any reporter that a high graduation rate could be the result of pushing students into easy classes, or even outright academic fraud. I'm more impressed by a school with a low graduation rate, as the students who actually graduate obviously did something out of the ordinary.

2 Comments:

At 12:44 PM, Blogger dhodge said...

I have to admit that without more context, I'm kind of stumped by some of these. Take #3 for example. I don't see what is wrong or unclear about it. I just Googled "Prime Rate" and learned that it tends not to fluctuate that much, so while your interest rate is adjusted on a monthly basis, it will likely only change two or three times a year, if historical trends continue.

 
At 7:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The answers are in:
http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB113828374985057052.html?mod=2_1125_1

I didn't nail all 10 -- 8, I knew -- and I was in the ballpark with the other two. That's reassuring.

-- Justin

 

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