Thursday, June 26, 2014

Statistics Prove ...

     Definition of Statistics:  The science of producing unreliable facts from reliable figures.  - 
          Evan Esar

Statistics can be the bane of human existence.  There are those who love to throw them in your face and think that settles any argument.  And there are those who have no belief in such facts, thinking they are made up or distorted to prove an argument with no way to quit talking and find the proof of the statement.

     Statistics show that of those who contract the habit of eating, very few survive.  -
          George Bernard Shaw

     Statistics are no substitute for judgment.  -  Henry Clay

While in college I was required to take a statistics class.  Since Psychology was my minor, I decided to take the class under that department.  This turned out to be a very wise decision.  Dr. Hines made the class fun as well as informative.  He would throw out a statistic and open the class to discussion before getting down to the work for the day. I enjoyed school and had no problem entering into the discussions.

One day he opened with this:  Statistics prove that males reach their intellectual height at the age of 30, after which they show a slow gradual decline.  Females reach their intellectual height at the age of six, with a very sudden decline after that age.

No one said anything.  Finally he said, "Well, Karen, what's your take on this?"

I sat back in my chair in what I assumed was a contemplative pose and took my time, then gave my reply as such:  I took my first college class 15 years after graduating from high school.  I am now 35 years old.  I am taking 21 hours per semester and have a 3.78 grade point average.  (Bolting upright in my chair, I slapped my hands on my desk and exclaimed):  My God, what was I at six?

Was I a genius at six?  No.  But at 35 I definitely was a motivated student.  I would never have taken that course load or made those grades at 18 or 19 years of age.  What was the difference when I did go?

I married right out of high school and two years later had a baby.  We didn't have a lot of money, but at the age of 32 we had reached a point we could finally think of buying a house.  Then my husband, bless his heart, started a conversation.  He said, yes we could get a house, but he thought it would be better if I went to college.  Wow! 

He was a firefighter and they worked 24 hour shifts.  He volunteered to take on extra jobs so I could quit mine and devote myself to college full time, and get out without being in debt.  Our 13 year old son was capable of doing a lot for himself at that time.  So I tackled college with zest.  How could I not?  If he was working that hard, it would have been impossible for me to just take 12 or 15 hours, take off summers, and just fluff through.  And I was not interested in the college social scene.  In my heart I believed I should be willing to work at least as hard as he did and get through as quickly as possible.

As a result in 3 years and 11 months I completed all coursework, did my practicum in speech pathology, took my national exams, and completed the thesis, graduating magna cum laude with a bachelor's in communicative disorders and, in that same time frame, also completed all work for a master of science in speech pathology.  Just under four years of college and two degrees.

Am I proud of what I did?  Of course.  Does it make me extra intelligent or superior in some fashion?  Absolutely not.  Would I insist that all college students follow my path?  No.  But it does skew the statistics if you look only at the work and intellectual ability.  Motivation and interest in the endeavor can be just as important when you undertake a major task.

     Statistics are used much like a drunk uses a lamppost: for support, not illumination. -
          Vin Scully

Whatever the statistics in your life, may it all be good with a large dose of love and joy thrown in.

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