On the Fetish of Statistics

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  • The Fetish of StatisticsAuthor(s): Harry J. BakerSource: The Clearing House, Vol. 15, No. 9 (May, 1941), p. 551Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/30190168 .Accessed: 27/01/2015 09:35

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    membership in the society. The person whom the pupil considers most worthy of election is rated 1, the person next deserving is rated 2, etc. In making their decisions pupils are asked to give particular consid- eration to character, leadership, and service. These pupil ratings are also averaged for each candidate.

    If the pupils select 15 candidates from the 1 2A class, each candidate is ranked 1 through 15 in scholarship, 1 through 15 in leadership. Similar ratings are made for service and character. The pupil rankings are used in the same manner.

    The totals are determined as follows: Roy Jones ranks 3 in scholarship, 4 in character, 2 in leadership, 5 in service, and 2 is his pupil ranking. His total rating is therefore listed as the sum of his rankings, or 16. If 5 people can be selected for membership, the 5 pupils receiving the smallest totals are the ones chosen.

    Although the system has not worked per- fectly, in general it has overcome the bad practices noted in Mr. Lynch's article. While teachers are not immune to mistakes in grading, and while they are seriously in- fluenced in their judgments by personality traits, the average of the estimates of all teachers who know a pupil tends to mini- mize errors.

    The ratings of the members of the gradu- ating class have been interesting. Pupils

    have tended neither to pick decided extro- verts nor classmates who are just good-look- ing and "classy" dressers. These are the practices which Mr. Lynch rightly con- demns. In general pupil ratings have cor- related very well with the scholarship rat- ings for the candidates. The committee in charge has frequently commented that pu- pils recognize real ability instead of picking "flashy" individuals.

    Honor societies should not be condemned because some mistakes are made in the elec- tion of members. Members should definitely not be chosen according to the practices listed by Mr. Lynch. There can be no pos- sible excuse for not electing pupils in the upper 5 or to per cent of the class scholas- tically, who have contributed as much to their school as his examples would indicate. The persons selecting the members must surely realize that there are forms of leader- ship and service to the school which are not necessarily of the noisy kind. If some schools follow practices such as Mr. Lynch notes, new methods of election should be inaugu- rated. In addition to scholarship, the only other traits considered should be character, leadership, and service. Some objective sys- tem of rating should be used to make sure that "flashy" individuals do not obtain too much recognition. Then, and only then, can the practices noted by Mr. Lynch be avoided.

    The Fetish of Statistics Education is greatly indebted to the careful and

    thorough research and contributions of a few reli- able statisticians. Something of a less complimentary nature may be said of hundreds of their lesser literal disciples who make a veritable fetish of sta- tistics.

    Many articles submitted for publication in edu- cational and psychological journals contain noth- ing more than a few tables of so-called measurable data with emphasis upon the statistics and very little on useful interpretation of findings. In many in- stances articles seem to have been inspired through some college or university course in which the chief

    emphasis was obviously on the statistical approach with very little discussion of the practical outcomes of the project.

    It is interesting to speculate what would be produced by way of articles, master's theses, doctor's dissertations and in oral examinations for these higher degrees if a five-year moratorium were de- clared on all but a small fraction of the so-called statistical studies. One would hope at least for a renewed interest in other important values if a temporary censorship were spread over Pearson, r's, sigma's, and a few others.-HARRY J. BAKER in Journal of Educational Research.

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    Article Contentsp. 551

    Issue Table of ContentsThe Clearing House, Vol. 15, No. 9 (May, 1941), pp. 515-576Volume InformationFront MatterWork Camps for 1,500,000 High-School Youth [pp. 515-519]Any War Is Everybody's War! [pp. 520-522]Adolescent Girls: Their Dominant Glands Affect Their Personalities and Every Teacher Should Understand the Reasons [pp. 523-525]Textbook Economy [p. 525-525]We Learn in Strange Places [pp. 526-528]Recently They SaidMalignant Bookworms [p. 528-528]What Should the Teacher Do? [p. 528-528]Always One Fight More [p. 528-528]Poor Gifted Pupil [p. 528-528]

    Junior-High Group Guidance through Our Pupil Forum [pp. 529-530]Education Takes to the Tall Timber [pp. 531-532]Alias Sweet 16: An English Teacher Enrolls as a Pupil in a Strange High School to Get a Fresh Viewpoint [pp. 533-535]Homework: You Can't Please All of the Parents [p. 535-535]Ideas in Brief: Practical Ideas Selected and Condensed from Articles in State and Specialized Educational Journals [pp. 536-537]School Movie: Good Public Relations Work in Ithaca [pp. 538-540]To Have and Have Not [p. 540-540]We Study Ideas: Hempstead High School's Course in Philosophy Gives Pupils Guidance in Thinking Intelligently [pp. 541-544]Recently They SaidAre We Crackpots? [p. 544-544]Functional Mathematics [p. 544-544]Death of a Dream [p. 544-544]

    Story Telling: Campfire Technique in the Classroom [pp. 545-547]The Educational Whirl [pp. 548-549]Honor Societies: McKinley High's Plan Assures Fair Elections [pp. 550-551]The Fetish of Statistics [p. 551-551]In Step with Youth: Decatur's Year-Round Recreation Program [pp. 552-553]All This I Leave [p. 553-553]School News Digest [pp. 554, 576]EditorialSpending Money May Be Legal [pp. 555-556]

    Findings [p. 556-556]School Law Review: The Question of Salary Cuts [pp. 557-558]Book ReviewsReview: untitled [p. 559-559]Review: untitled [pp. 559-560]Review: untitled [p. 560-560]Review: untitled [pp. 560-561]Review: untitled [p. 561-561]Review: untitled [pp. 561-562]Review: untitled [p. 562-562]Review: untitled [pp. 562-563]Review: untitled [p. 563-563]Review: untitled [p. 564-564]Review: untitled [pp. 564-565]Review: untitled [p. 565-565]Review: untitled [p. 565-565]

    New Workbooks [pp. 565-566]Back Matter