William Flynn Wallace
foozler83 at gmail.com
Mon Sep 14 23:12:23 UTC 2015
An article appeared on the front page of the Jackson MS
Clarion Ledger detailing statistics about rates of disciplinary actions and
suspension, which were much higher than those for whites. Here is the
letter I wrote to the newspaper:
As Mark Twain said, there are 'lies, damned lies, and statistics.' If there
is a disproportionality of black students being suspended or otherwise
disciplined, as reported on the front page of the Sunday Clarion Ledger,
what does that mean? In the Clarion Ledger article, implications were made
that it was wrong, using words like 'outrageous disproportionality', and
'worst offenders'. What can we conclude from such data?
Black students cause more problems.
Black students act the same as whites but are the victims of racial bias.
White students actually cause more problems than blacks and are the
beneficiaries of reverse discrimination.
(The data were not presented. The proportion of whites/blacks in a school
was not reported. There was no mention of variation in disciplinary
practices, which there must be by school. And more.)
All of these are possible meanings of the data. There may be more. So
what can we actually conclude from these data? Nothing. Or rather, that
there needs to be more study to determine which of the possible
interpretations is correct, if any. Never jump to conclusions when faced
with statistical data without considering other possible interpretations.
People tend to see what they want to see and neglect other views. Thus,
anything concluded from this article and these data is premature at best,
and dangerous at the worst.
William F Wallace, Ph. D., Brandon MS
(question for the editors - does printing this despite all the problems I
detailed above border on sensationalist journalism?)
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