joel best more damned lies essay

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Joel best more damned lies essay undergraduate thesis economics topics

Joel best more damned lies essay

It is an important work that addresses a significant problem in contemporary society: thoughtlessness about numerical claims. Joel Best provides a direct, accessible guide to critical readings of statistics. If you're a journalist, read it twice. Table of Contents. Preface: People Count. Ch 1: Missing Numbers. Ch 2: Confusing Numbers. Ch 3: Scary Numbers. Ch 4: Authoritative Numbers. Ch 5: Magical Numbers. Ch 6: Contentious Numbers.

Ch 7: Toward Statistical Literacy. Ch 7 Statistical Literacy: Excerpts. Shouldn't we be able to teach "statistical literacy"-basic skills for critically interpreting the sorts of statistics we encounter in everyday life? Certainly a plausible argument exists for considering it in these terms. After all, we are talking about teaching people to be more critical, to be more thoughtful about what they read in the newspaper or watch in a news broadcast, to ask questions about claims from scientists, politicians, or activists.

Being better able to assess such claims is certainly valuable; we might even argue that it is fundamental to being an informed citizen. Why not consider statistical literacy a basic skill? But this raises another question: what sort of basic skill is it? This is a very important skill because graphs and tables are certain to appear in much of the reading a student will need to do in the course of college.

And yet, no one wants to teach this skill, or at least spend much time doing so. Many have the sense that students should already be proficient in these skills when they get to college even though it is clear that many are not. To many others, it seems to simple, too basic -- a waste of time for professors who would prefer to teach the more advanced topics in their disciplines.

Nor are other departments eager to teach this material. I teach sociology courses, but I know that most sociology professors tend to dismiss statistical literacy as "not really sociology"; faculty in psychology and other disciplines probably have the same reaction. Statistical literacy falls between the stools on which academic departments perch. Despite these obstacles, a small educational movement advocating statistical literacy has emerged. Professor Milo Schield, director of the W.

Schield operates the Statistical Literacy Web site www. Although this is a promising development, the campaign to promote formal instruction in statistical literacy is in its early phases. But perhaps statistical literacy doesn't have to be taught in classrooms. Recently, there seem to be increasing calls to promote statistical literacy outside the educational establishment.

In short, it may be true that "everyone" agrees that improving statistical literacy is desirable, but it isn't clear that they can agree on what statistical literacy means, what improving it might involve, or what the consequences of this improvement might be.

Even if no one opposes statistical literacy, serious obstacles remain. There is disagreement about which skills need to be taught, and, at least so far, no group has offered to take responsibility for doing the necessary teaching. Plenty of information is out there-any interested individual can learn ways to think more critically about statistics-but the statistical literacy movement has yet to convince most educators that they need to change what the educational system is doing.

As things stand, we constantly find ourselves exposed to lots of statistics. Some of those numbers are pretty good, but many aren't. As a result, we worry about things that probably aren't worth the trouble, even as we ignore things that ought to warrant our attention. Improving statistical literacy - if we can manage it - could help us tell the difference and, in a small way, make us wiser. In this sequel to Best's Damned Lies and Statistics , the premise is simple: there are vast quantities of statistics being bandied about in all walks of life, and we frequently rely on them to form our own opinions about things.

Often, however, neither we nor the experts understand how those numbers work. Some journalists say child-abduction cases are up; others say they're down; but no one has bothered to agree on what they mean by child or abduction. Another problem: news media perpetuate inaccuracies by citing each other's statistics without checking for accuracy. This is why, for example, we keep hearing that people die every year after being hit by falling coconuts. In fact, there is no such statistic because no one tracks coconut deaths.

The book is packed with helpful tips for understanding statistics, and it even manages to make a usually dull topic entertaining. All rights reserved Review. In this latest book, Best confronts yet more of the pseudo-statistics by which we are bamboozled day by day. One obvious question comes to mind. If he can deal with highly significant topics in such lucid and enjoyable prose, why can't other social scientists begin to match him?

Whether discussing 'deaths from falling coconuts,' teenage bullying, or likelihood of contracting breast cancer, Best teaches us to avoid the dangers of statistical illiteracy. As his cogent and comic examples from the media amply demonstrate, there is much teaching yet to be done. While we like to believe that it is our opponents who are fools with figures, this volume demonstrates that liberals, conservatives, libertarians, lawyers, physicians, and educators fall in the same numerical traps.

His approach to explicating them is lucid, instructive, and quite engaging. Reviews by Augsburg students : " I think that [reading] this [book] makes me a more informed person and one less easily duped. I feel like I am less confused, now, by conflicting claims. Following excerpts chosen by Milo Schield. Who created this statistic? Why was this statistic created?

How was this statistic created? Chapter 2 examines four basic sources of bad statistics: bad guesses, deceptive definitions, confusing questions, and biased samples. Chapter 3 looks at mutant statistics, at ways even good statistics can be mangled, misused, and misunderstood.

Chapter 4 discusses the logic of statistical comparison and explores some of the most common errors in comparing two or more time periods, places, groups or social problems. Chapter 5 considers debates over statistics. Finally, chapter 6 examines three general approaches to thinking about statistics.

Of course they do. All human knowledge -- including statistics -- is created thru people's actions; everything we know is shaped by our language, culture and society. Sociologists call the the social construction "of knowledge. These are the four basic ways to create bad social statistics. Their guesses are far more likely to overestimate than under-estimate a problem size.

The number takes on a life of its own, and it goes through 'number laundering. When they do so, the tend to prefer general, broad, inclusive definitions. False positives they mistakenly identify case as part of the problem False negatives incorrectly identified as not being part of the problem. The broader the definition, the bigger the statistic. First, how is the problem defined? The obvious problem is sample size.

The real problem is that few samples are random. But people promoting social problems often find it advantageous to gloss over these problems, to imply that everyone shares the same risks and therefore we all have the same, substantial stake in solving the social problem. Second, good statistics are based on clear, reasonable definitions.

Finally, good statistics are based on good samples. The social construction of a mass shooting epidemic by Joel Best at Reason. Abstract : Sociologists use the term social construction to refer to the processes by which people assign meaning to their world. This paper argues that numeracy education needs to address social construction. While it is relatively easy to spot bad statistics, mutant statistics require a second level of understanding.

As statistics mutate, they take on a history, and it becomes necessary to unravel the history to understand just how and why they are mutant. Transformation, confusion, and compound errors create chains of bad statistics that become difficult to trace and categorize. Dangers arise when comparisons over time involve changing and unchanging measures, and projections.

Comparisons among places and groups lead to problems not merely in the data measured, but in the ways the data may be gathered and collated. Comparison among social problems also creates unique difficulties. Best offers logic of comparison to help the reader understand how to make sense of good comparison and bad comparison.

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Joel Best's Damned Lies and Statistics is a book all about recognizing statistics that are Historical analysis reveals more than theory can on its own. The brash title is the premiere point of the captivation of Joel Best's "Damned Lies and Statistics". The book investigates the lies and or. The book “Damned Lies and Statistics: Untangling Numbers from the Media, Politicians, and Activists” written by famous sociologist Joel Best gives its.