Some people simply have to put a number on everything. Statisticians, forecasters, pundits, and assorted obsessive-compulsives. Somehow it gives them the feeling of being in control. They’re like the difference between that wildly free spirit Zorba The Greek and his prim and proper English boss. [If that movie is too long ago, think Mike Tyson having dinner with Bill Gates].
Take these four sets of stats:
* the average SAT scores for the graduating class of 2011 is the lowest in almost 50 years
* the number of meth and cocaine users has dropped almost 50% in the last 5 years
* the number of cell phone users who prefer texting to talking is now up more than 50%
* the number of Americans who think Hillary Clinton is our best political leader is more than 60%
In the statistician’s obsessive pursuit for meaning in a sometimes meaningless world, he or she could reach one of several conclusions. Dumber but more drug-free young people love texting and Hillary …or they’re dumber because of less drugs…or they text because they don’t remember how to talk…or today’s feminists have made Hillary as their movement’s figurehead.
Or none of the above….!
In an existential culture, today’s existentialist youth may simply dismiss stats as outdated crutches on which their parents’ world sought to pick their way through an irrational universe. THEY tried to channel the flow; WE simply go with the flow. As one wag put it: “Using stats is something like Pat Robertson insisting satellites fall from the sky because God thinks they’re gay!”
It’s like the fish who swim the oceans. When you’re in something that deep, there’s no use trying to figure out what it is you’re in. You’re in what you’re in because that’s all there is to be in. Oh, there may be one thing Americans can start figuring out in today’s ocean of existence: The new federally mandated compact fluorescent light bulb. Goodbye forever friendly, soft-glow incandescent lighting. We’ve loved you ever since Tom Edison, but now some highly educated statisticians have calculated you’re bad for the economy and maybe even my health.
Yeah right — just like my Twinkies, Snickers, Mom’s all-butter pies, and burning leaves in fall. Maybe our slipping SAT score grads are realizing the downside of being what my generation is: Over-educated!
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