Sunday, February 20, 2011

Peeve alert

What follows is totally and complete- ly a peeve. I don't know if anyone shares it, it has no empirical or theoretical foundation, the world is unlikely (p>.05) to become a better place if everyone pays attention, and you're under no obligation to agree anyway.

That said: Will you people please stop saying "do you want to become a statistic?" That's exactly what you want to be. I get up every morning with the intent of being a statistic -- several of them, actually. I want to cover my couple dozen passenger-miles without being hit by a gravel hauler. I don't expect to be shot during a faculty meeting. I'd like to make dinner and not come down with a great honking case of food poisoning. (OK, we screwed that one up a few weeks ago, but that doesn't change the broader fact that you're just as much a "statistic" when you don't get sick as when you do.)

I can't make a serious case that "don't be a statistic" actually makes people dumber, but anything we can do to take the fright out of numbers ought to help at least a little bit. A statistic isn't a bad thing to be. What we ought to be doing is encouraging people to take steps that make them more likely to be in the right column when the "calculate" button is pushed.

End peeve. But while you're at it, if you have to overlay the hed on the art (and you don't), never put red and pink over red. That's just dumb.

Labels: ,


Anonymous Old Word Wolf said...

Years ago, I read a biography of John Snow, the 19th c. English physician who documented the relationship between cholera and one's proximity to the Thames -- a statistical analysis. To this day, when I read that some institution or business promises that I won't be "just a number," it inflames the same peeve. Please, I say, make me a number! It may save my life, or someone else's.

9:38 PM, February 20, 2011  
Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

I guess it's the same slide that makes all luck good unless specified otherwise?

2:11 PM, February 22, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I don't expect to be shot during a faculty meeting."

Obviously you've never attended WSU's J-department meetings -- bunch of crazies.

5:00 PM, March 01, 2011  

Post a Comment

<< Home