Two items blipped my mental radar screen this past week. The first one occurred last Wednesday when a good, long-time friend informed me that he’s been diagnosed with terminal cancer (lung).
The second blip defined outright stupidity. It’s in no way related to the item above; nor does it come within multiple light-years of the same degree of personal tragedy, but it’s been sticking in my craw ever since I heard a public school administrator say it.
As for the topic of cancer, my background is physics, not oncology. But, I’m an avid researcher. And while the topic is about as complex as complexity gets, the reams of legitimate research is available to anyone willing to do the looking.
In fact, as far as I’m concerned, the problem is not a lack of statistical data, but rather a less than adequate ability on the part of various analysts in explaining what the statistics actually mean.
For example, a smoker runs the risk of developing lung cancer. And the more one smokes, the greater are the chances of developing cancer.
But some people—like my friend above—who have never smoked at all, not to mention that they’ve always been borderline fanatics about avoiding even second hand smoke or other carcinogens, still develop lung cancer.
I’m not questioning the statistical data regarding cancer, lung or otherwise. The overwhelming majority of the statistics define medical legitimacy. But I’ve always been critical of a seeming lack in explaining statistical inferences regarding predictability.
Inferential statistics is the very lifeblood of scientific predictability. The inferences do the explaining as to what the numbers are ACTUALLY telling us, as opposed to what we THINK they’re telling us.
And a prime directive of inferential statistics is that false pattern recognition due to erroneous assumptions is a major inferential statistical error. In fact, within the domain of “Inference,” it’s a mathematical class-A felony!
Some recent legitimate cancer studies have left non-medical types with the impression that, even if we’re fanatics about living healthy lifestyles, cell mutation into cancer boils down to the “luck of the draw.”
The studies then continue explaining why some people who painstakingly live healthy lifestyles still develop cancer, as well as why some of those who persistently ignore healthy lifestyles do not develop cancer.
I don’t disagree with the “luck of the draw” implication, but it has to be explained within its full context. I personally think that SOME of the people writing these analyses need to explain the inferences more thoroughly.
If you’re predisposed to cell mutation into cancer, a healthy lifestyle isn’t absolutely going to prevent it, and if you’re not so predisposed, an unhealthy lifestyle won’t absolutely guarantee that you will develop cancer.
Here is a website that explains this stuff better than I’m able to do it. It’s from the UK. The site explains that many factors affect cell mutation into cancer, and while these factors contain a certain degree of LUCK, living a healthy lifestyle does not hinder prevention.
And now, referring to that STUPIDITY blip I referred to at the beginning of this piece, a “professional” educator, in support of a program aimed at improving educational outcomes that he was pushing, actually said that his main goal was eliminating “below average academic performance.”
I’m not going to mention his name, but his statement was one of the stupidest ones I’ve ever heard. He should be required to take a literacy test before making any more public statements. And, for sure, he’s convinced me that he’s one of the major hindrances to improving academic performance in students.
Here’s a clue; “average” is not an absolute. It’s a measure of relativity. And as long as people employ the use of a standard Bell Curve, no matter how many standard deviations it contains, there will always be BELOW average, AVERAGE, and ABOVE average performances.
Even at a standard Mensa meeting of local geniuses, relative to the number in attendance, some of them are going to be below average in intelligence. Get it?
And here’s one last thing. If these “professional” educational administrators really want to improve academic outcomes in K-12 public schools, start funneling the bulk of the educational funds allocated to public education, directly to the teachers in the classrooms.
Back in the middle ages when I went to grade school, there were 4-layers of administration between the school principal and the superintendent’s office. Today, there are over 40, and most of them are nothing but “busy” functions that need to be eliminated.