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Here, by popular demand, is the updated edition to Joel Best's classic guide to understanding how numbers can confuse us. In his new afterword, Best uses examples from recent policy debates to reflect on the challenges to improving statistical literacy. Since its publication ten years ago, Damned Lies and Statistics has emerged as the go-to handbook for spotting bad statistics and learning to think critically about these influential numbers.
While startling statistics shape the thinking about social issues, the author attests that these numbers can be wrong. This book is a lively guide to spotting bad statistics and learning to think critically about these influential numbers.
Every kindergarten soccer player gets a trophy. Many high schools name dozens of seniors as valedictorians--of the same class. Cars sport bumper stickers that read "USA--Number 1." Prizes proliferate in every corner of American society, and excellence is trumpeted with ratings that range from "Academy Award winner!" to "Best Neighborhood Pizza!" In Everyone's a Winner, Joel Best-- acclaimed author of Damned Lies and Statistics and many other books--shines a bright light on the increasing abundance of status in our society and considers what it all means. With humor and insight, Best argues that status affluence fosters social worlds and, in the process, helps give meaning to life in a large society.
Using vivid, illuminating and eye-opening examples, Best uncovers the dynamics of fads. From hula hoops to low carbohydrate diets, the author shows us how fads have become an integral part of our cultural life.
Winner of the 2015 Brian McConnell Book Award presented by the International Society for Contemporary Legend Research To hear mainstream media sources tell it, the sex lives of modern teenagers outpace even the smuttiest of cable television shows. Teen girls "sext" explicit photos to boys they like; they wear "sex bracelets" that signify what sexual activities they have done, or will do; they team up with other girls at "rainbow parties" to perform sex acts on groups of willing teen boys; they form "pregnancy pacts" with their best girlfriends to all become teen mothers at the same time. From The Today Show, to CNN, to the New York Times, stories of these events have been featured widely in the media. But are most teenage--or younger--children really going to sex parties and having multiple sexual encounters in an orgy-like fashion? Researchers say no--teen sex is actually not rampant and teen pregnancy is at low levels. But why do stories like these find such media traffic, exploiting parents' worst fears? How do these rumors get started, and how do they travel around the country and even across the globe? In Kids Gone Wild, best-selling authors Joel Best and Kathleen A. Bogle use these stories about the fears of the growing sexualization of childhood to explore what we know about contemporary legends and how both traditional media and the internet perpetuate these rumors while, at times, debating their authenticity. Best and Bogle describe the process by which such stories spread, trace how and to where they have moved, and track how they can morph as they travel from one medium to another. Ultimately, they find that our society's view of kids raging out of control has drastic and unforeseen consequences, fueling the debate on sex education and affecting policy decisions on everything from the availability of the morning after pill to who is included on sex offender registries. A surprising look at the truth behind the sensationalism in our culture, Kids Gone Wild is a much-needed wake-up call for a society determined to believe the worst about its young people.
In this sequel to the acclaimed "Damned Lies and Statistics," which the Boston Globe said "deserves a place next to the dictionary on every school, media, and home-office desk," Joel Best continues his straightforward, lively, and humorous account of how statistics are produced, used, and misused by everyone from researchers to journalists. Underlining the importance of critical thinking in all matters numerical, Best illustrates his points with examples of good and bad statistics about such contemporary concerns as school shootings, fatal hospital errors, bullying, teen suicides, deaths at the World Trade Center, college ratings, the risks of divorce, racial profiling, and fatalities caused by falling coconuts. "More Damned Lies and Statistics" encourages all of us to think in a more sophisticated and skeptical manner about how statistics are used to promote causes, create fear, and advance particular points of view. Best identifies different sorts of numbers that shape how we think about public issues: missing numbers are relevant but overlooked ;confusing numbers bewilder when they should inform; scary numbers play to our fears about the present and the future; authoritative numbers demand respect they don't deserve; magical numbers promise unrealistic, simple solutions to complex problems; and contentious numbers become the focus of data duels and stat wars. The author's use of pertinent, socially important examples documents the life-altering consequences of understanding or misunderstanding statistical information. He demystifies statistical measures by explaining in straightforward prose how decisions are made about what to count and what not to count, what assumptions get made, and which figures are brought to our attention. Best identifies different sorts of numbers that shape how we think about public issues. Entertaining, enlightening, and very timely, this book offers a basis for critical thinking about the numbers we encounter and a reminder that when it comes to the news, people count-- in more ways than one.
Does a young person commit suicide every thirteen minutes in the United States? Are four million women really battered to death by their husbands or boyfriends each year? Is methamphetamine our number one drug problem today? Alarming statistics bombard our daily lives, appearing in the news, on the Web, seemingly everywhere. But all too often, even the most respected publications present numbers that are miscalculated, misinterpreted, hyped, or simply misleading. This new edition contains revised benchmark statistics, updated resources, and a new section on the rhetorical uses of statistics, complete with new problems to be spotted and new examples illustrating those problems. Joel Best's best seller exposes questionable uses of statistics and guides the reader toward becoming a more critical, savvy consumer of news, information, and data. Entertaining, informative, and concise, Stat-Spotting takes a commonsense approach to understanding data and doesn't require advanced math or statistics.
This illuminating investigation uncovers the full dimensions of the student loan disaster. A father and son team--one a best-selling sociologist, the other a former banker and current quantitative researcher--probes how we've reached the point at which student loan debt--now exceeding $1 trillion and predicted to reach $2 trillion by 2020--threatens to become the sequel to the mortgage meltdown. In spite of their good intentions, Americans have allowed concerns about deadbeat students, crushing debt, exploitative for-profit colleges, and changing attitudes about the purpose of college education to blind them to a growing crisis. With college costs climbing faster than the cost of living, how can access to higher education remain a central part of the American dream? With more than half of college students carrying an average debt of $27,000 at graduation, what are the prospects for young adults in the current economy? Examining how we've arrived at and how we might extricate ourselves from this grave social problem, The Student Loan Mess is a must-read for everyone concerned about the future of American education. Hard facts about the student loan crisis: * Student loan debt is rising by more than $100 billion every year. * Among recent college students who are supposed to be repaying their loans, more than a third are delinquent. * Because student loans cannot be discharged through bankruptcy, the federal government misleadingly treats student loan debt as a government asset. * Higher default rates, spiraling college costs, and proposals for more generous terms for student borrowers make it increasingly likely that student loan policies will eventually cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars.
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