Teaching statistics is a double-edged sword in mathematics

They say that knowledge is power, but power should also come with responsibility. For example, if you teach someone how to build something, design it, and create it, you will expect them to do so for the right reasons. Just as Mr. Miagi from the movie “Karate Kid” refused to hire an apprentice unless he was promised on his honor to use those skills to protect himself and not start a fight, we must be careful not to teach the wrong things . those who have not yet grown enough to handle it. Okay, let’s talk about math in our schools and the educational value of statistics for a moment, shall we?

One thing that bothers me on the subject of statistics is how so many people in our population get lost by the facts and figures they hear or read in the media. Maybe that old quote is true; “Figures lie and liars calculate”, and even if you don’t believe that particular quote, or don’t accept the concept, there is a very good book you would like to read;

“The Craft of Political Research – Sixth Edition”, by W Phillips Shively, Pearson-Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ, 2004, 176 pages, ISBN 0-13-117440-1.

In that book, he teaches people how to carefully manipulate statistics, charts, graphs, and even questionnaire surveys to get the desired response to help persuade political opinion in their favor. Yes, there is a book for that, there are several, this is one that I have in my personal library. Although I was horrified when I read it, I can certainly understand why people use such political manipulation, and it seems to explain much of the global warming theory actually.

If more people understood the value of teaching statistical math in high school and college, fewer people would be sidetracked by the manipulated data, and therefore would be better informed voters and more skeptical of the information presented. My opinion is that more mathematics of this type should be taught in our schools. Of course, it is also a double-edged sword, as once you teach people statistics, you are also inadvertently teaching them how to do the same kind of manipulation that has been used on them personally.

We may need more math in school, and statistics is full of math, and therefore appropriate, but it won’t do much good unless we also teach ethics, discipline, and the difference between right and wrong, of course. some people don’t. It seems that I understand it, or even that I also care. Consider all of this and think about it.

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