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Jonathan Groves
Posts:
2,068
From:
Kaplan University, Argosy University, Florida Institute of Technology
Registered:
8/18/05


Required Statistical Literacy Course for All Students?
Posted:
Apr 14, 2010 12:06 PM


Dear All,
I was responding to a post by Jerry P. Becker titled "Education Data More Confusing Than Enlightening," and I had reached the following conclusion (as quoted directly from my response):
I agree with Rich Wenning's comment, which is quoted in this article. Data can be easily manipulated to prevent schools from being punished according to the rules of NCLB. And such data manipulation is hard for most people to detect since many people do not have the required background in statistical reasoning and how statistics is often misused or abused to detect these problems.
When I think about this, I now realize that one major fault with teacher education is the lack of required statistics courses to help them understand statistics and how it is used. How can we expect teachers to make sense of various studies and data in education to help them improve their teaching if they themselves lack the required background to make sense of this stuff? How can we expect teachers to speak out against principals and other adminstrators from purposefully abusing statistics if they themselves do not have the expertise to detect such crap? Just because certain teachers aren't expected to teach something like that doesn't mean they don't need to know it. Otherwise, we could justify taking the math out of engineering simply because engineers are not in general expected to teach math.
When I think about it, a required statistical literacy course of some sort for all college students (and probably for high school students as well) is a great idea. Some colleges do this, but many do not. The lack of such a universal requirement keeps the public at large in the dark when statistics is purposefully abused to suit certain people's purposes rather than used to arrive at the truth.
I especially want to focus on the last paragraph though I included the two previous paragraphs to help you see where I am coming from. I had written previously about how the lack of a calculus prerequisite for statistics bothers me some, and it still does at least somewhat. Regardless of career, a person needs some knowledge of statiscal literacy to be able to make sense of reports about statistical studies and to detect misuses or abuses of statistics. SUch skills will serve anyone well, regardless of the person's career. The lack of basic statistical literacy among the public at large means that many people are fleeced all the time by statistical studies that don't mean anything. Most people would not have a chance to develop these skills if calculus is required for a beginning statistics course, and calculus is not needed to develop such skills anyway. Finally, it does little good for a person to know all these fancy tools and the theory behind statistics but then cannot detect abuses or misuses of statistics and cannot use statistics intelligently. I'd much rather see a person who can use statistics intelligently who does not understand much of the theory and justification behind statistics than see someone who knows much of theory behind statistics but cannot use statistics intelligently.
Jonathan Groves



