Statistics Day is right around the corner! No, seriously. Over at American Prospect, Paul Waldman ponders this Japanese holiday (with its slogan: “Statistical Surveys Owe You and You Owe Statistical Data”) and dreams of a day when Americans might revere responsibly parsed data so much that we have our own national celebration that “speaks of a culture that values precision and holds numbers in high esteem”:
We ought to be in a golden age of data. We have more data than we have ever had before, more computing capacity to analyze it, and an information delivery system—the Internet—we couldn't have dreamed of 20 years ago. With a few clicks, you can have at your fingertips the mountains of U.S. Census data. You can access the 36 years worth of data gathered by the General Social Survey or the 60 years of data collected by the National Election Studies. You can get oodles of numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics or the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development or the CIA's World Factbook. I could go on—almost forever...Why is it that misleading or manipulative uses of numbers are no less likely to carry the day for their dishonesty?
...The lesson isn't that one shouldn't listen to people who know a lot about numbers. It's that one has to know which questions can be answered by data and which can't. Too often, too many of us can't tell the difference.
Let’s make Paul Waldman proud and make this the best Statistics Day ever. I’ll bring the hats.
Now go crunch some numbers!