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The Prudent Scholar explores the topic of money and higher education. We look at at big picture and small: both the latest news and the nitty-gritty details of college life that might help you save money and get more value from your educational experience.

March 10, 2011

Mark Twain Would Take Statistics

"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics," Mark Twain said.  If you have any hope of being a prudent scholar of life, you'll want to get a handle on the last. 
Some majors -- business, sociology, psychology -- will probably require a course in statistics.  But, if you aren't forced by your program, I recommend forcing yourself and taking a junior-level class, or at the very least a freshman-level class introducing statistical literacy.  Check with your advisor as this might fulfill one of your science and math requirements.

Why do I recommend it?  Like a class in personal finance, this kind of course offers life skills. Open almost any newspaper and you'll see an article that uses statistics in some way. Are they using them correctly?  Maybe. Quite often not. Hence, Mr. Twain's colorful opinion on the matter.

The best website I've found all week is STATS.  Run by statisticians advocating for a more informed use of statistics, STATS looks at the current issues from a quantitative perspective. As an extra public service, STATS examines specific news articles and explains how statistics are being used and misused.

Would Mark Twain have taken Statistics?  What's a better way to understand the rascals who use statistics than to study it in depth?

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