It's bad enough that people like Richard Cohen can proudly write about their own ignorance and have it pass as commentary. What's worse is that I don't think it's ever occurred to Cohen how competence in mathematics could make him a better political analyst, or his colleagues at the Post and other media outlets better reporters. You can browse my archives for various instances where I've tried to correct some misperception, like how much more Democratic CD22 is, or how much the state gas tax would really have to be to fund highway needs, but the bottom line is that these misperceptions wouldn't exist if the person who wrote the original stories knew how to evaluate the claims in question. None of this is hard - the stuff I do for electoral analysis involves imprting publicly available data into Access, running a basic query, and exporting the results into Excel for comparison and summarization. (Yeah, I could probably do it all in Access, but I'm more confident of my Excel fu than I am of my SQL fu. Sue me.)
Not being able or willing to do the math isn't just a personal failing. For reporters and pundits, I say it's a professional failing. Richard Cohen should be ashamed of himself.
More on the topic, from Kevin Drum, Atrios, Pharyngula, and Big Media Matt. And just so there's no question in anyone's mind, Olivia will be taught from an early age that she can do math as well as anybody else.Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 18, 2006 to Technology, science, and math | TrackBack