I need to get off Facebook.  In the past hour, I have had a discussion with a guy who felt that arming teachers was the right thing to do, and who responded to a careful cost benefit analysis showing that in the end, more kids were likely to be shot accidentally than get shot by psychopaths, with “All the math won’t matter to a parent whose kid has just taken a bullet to the brain in algebra class.” I pointed out that it wouldn’t matter to the parent whether the kid was shot by Adam Lanza or by a teacher accidentally. This is the sort of reasoning that leads to large portions of the American public believing that ten-year-olds shouldn’t walk a couple of blocks to school unsupervised. [Edited to Add: Ian Osmond, who did the original analysis in the Facebook post, points out that he did not actually do a cost-benefit analysis, because he did not have the numbers, but merely pointed out that one needed to be done. His analysis of the situation was, I think, spot-on, and the “the maths don’t matter” claim was still ridiculous. However, it seems that this was a case where my reading comprehension failed. As I said, I needed to get off Facebook.]

I also was faced with an alarmist claim that the Nestle Corporation was siphoning off 75% of the groundwater in the Colorado River Basin. Even had I known next to nothing about water systems (and I do know a little), the claim would have looked ridiculous. I followed back the link to the purported “full story” and found that the people who made the scare-graphic had massively misstated what the story said. (Not that the “full story” itself wasn’t a piece of propaganda: the authors converted the number of acre-feet that Nestle bottles from the Colorado each year, roughly about 1,400 acre-feet, into millions of gallons, and then resumed the story talking about millions of… acre-feet.  The entire effect was to make the Nestle draw-off seem massively larger than it was.) [ETA: I want to point out that, unlike in the previous example, I did re-read the story several times, and actually ran the numbers.]  I hate being placed in the position of feeling I need to defend a large multi-national corporation. As I said in a comment, corporations often do such awful things, why resort to hyperbole? The facts are bad enough.

Math, people. It’s a thing.  Reading comprehension is a thing, too, as is critical thinking.


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2 Responses to

  1. Ian Osmond says:

    Well, to be fair, I didn’t actually do a cost-benefit analysis, because I DON’T have the numbers to hand. I merely pointed out that one really NEEDS to do one before making the argument, and that there probably is a cost to dumping large numbers of firearms into a school system.

  2. Pat Greene says:

    Okay, you’re right, and I will correct the post. But your analysis of the situation was, I thought, spot-on.

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