There are lies, damned lies and statistics.Mark Twain
Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.Mark Twain
Making Sense of the Numbers to Derive Inspiration
Ever wonder why statistics bombard us? Having learned this field of study while in my doctoral program, I was generally unaware of the correlation statistics have to psychology. However, as I would inevitably grow to understand the causal effects that numbers can have on the personal and collective psyche, I was taken aback. Psychology and philosophy have always been my inspiration, but there is a dark side to the powerful sway behind the numbers. Let’s look at this from an experimental perspective for just one moment.
According to the IMD World Competitiveness Center, the United States ranked tenth in the world in 2020 after ranking first in 2018 in educational scoring.
Now ask yourself, how did that headline make you feel? Did it touch a nerve? It is supposed to touch a nerve because we are taught numbers are factual, and 10th place sucks. This tendency to strike discord in the nervous system is true when a headline taps into our competitive nature, especially against others that compete against us. However, what is not present here, is the shadow of the statistic.
Regarding reading, the difference between the top country, China, and the ranking of the United States equals only about nine percentage points. Now, what is not a huge difference to make up when it comes to testing? However, the darkness of the statistic doesn’t end there.
Let’s say a reporting agency uses this statistic to ask for votes to increase educational spending. Then, we can end the headline with verbiage such as “Congress to vote on discretionary spending to modernize educational programming and create smaller class sizes so no child is left behind.”
Bam, the headline just opened the wallets of nearly 1/2 of the population who do not want their children to fall behind. The only problem: The United States spends more than most other industrialized nations per student on their education. So what gives?
Ah, a simple smoke screen to raise new taxes, but one that indicates a much deeper problem, one that simply throwing money at has yet to solve. What makes us think more funds would make any difference? Can you see the power of statistics?
I love these quotes from Mark Twain. We need to research the facts first before we distort reality. Just look around you; how much truth do you see distorted? Well, that doesn’t have to be the case, especially if you hone your research skills to engage in a little behind-the-scenes understanding of how governments and media use lies, damned lies, and statistics to brainwash, oops, manipulate, no, sway one’s opinion.
I hope you enjoyed this brief exploration into a necessity for facts. With blessings, my friends. May your journey be rich and rewarding as you learn to advance confidently in the direction of your dreams.