Measurement: The Propaganda of Numbers

The October 13, 2006 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education contains a thought-provoking article on measurement, statistics, and education.  While the examples used come from university level programs, the conclusions drawn by the author, Clifford Adelman, speak to our conference theme across all levels of our education programs under sail.  Plus, he opens in great sea-faring tradition by citing Moby Dick

Sail trainers can access the article at The Chronicle’s web site.  Adelman reflects on the misuse of statistics when he states,

“It is counterproductive to make decisions based on assumptions derived from unexamined numbers. Yet that is what we in higher education do when we fail to question statistical assertions, when we fail to triangulate — that is, to find other sources and types of evidence to affirm or contradict those assertions. We have been gulled by a propaganda of numbers that has shaped how we think about our enterprise. It is our responsibility to exercise due diligence in generating, interpreting, and responding to statistical assertions, particularly those from unofficial sources. If we don’t, the propaganda of numbers will turn into tyranny.”

How should ASTA members examine our numbers?  How should we exercise “due diligence”? — Posted by Eric J. Shaw, Ph.D., ASTA Education Director

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