Evolution of a Fuzzy Statistic

US engineers.bmp

How many Chinese engineers are there? It depends on who you ask.

"Last year more than 600,000 engineers graduated from institutions of higher education in China," the report stated. "In India the figure was 350,000. In America, it was about 70,000." To dramatize the seriousness of the issue, the academies titled the 543-page report "Rising Above the Gathering Storm," an allusion to Winston Churchill's book "The Gathering Storm," about events leading up to World War II.”

As Gerald W. Bracey continues in a recent column in the Washington Post;

“Statistics that end up as conventional wisdom even when they're wrong usually become popular by being presented as fact in a highly visible and respected source -- such as a cover story in Fortune or a National Academies report.

Once a statistic has attained the status of something we all "know," it takes on a charmed life. It is hardly surprising that the National Academies report gave rise to many citations…”

Even when they are proved wrong, they’re unrepentant. That's why bloggers are important to spread the word for we cannot rely on Thomas Friedmans of the world to tell us the truth.


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This page contains a single entry by Paul published on May 27, 2006 7:36 PM.

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