Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bad statistics assignment

For my intro to sociology class, I gave an assignment for the students to find the worst social statistic that they could find (and I would give a prize for the worst one).  I figured that this would be a good way to get them to evaluate critically a wide range of social statistics.  Instead, they all just googled "bad statistics."  What they brought in was entertaining, and they had to explain why the statistic was bad, but it wasn't quite the learning experience that I was looking for.  I guess that if I were younger, I would have anticipated what happened.


Zoomie said...

I've been involved in following global statistics and trends for a large international Christian broadcasting organization, and have been amazed at the tendency for Church-based groups to use numbers rather "evangelastically." One of my co-workers once said (or quoted) "if you choke a number long enough and hard enough, it'll admit to anything."

Brad Wright said...

Yes... I've heard it phrased as torturing statistics to get them to say what you want.