Editorial: Reading too much into the numbers

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Mark Twain knew a thing or two about statistics.

Wikimedia Commons / A.F. Bradley

Mark Twain knew a thing or two about statistics.

“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.”

Mark Twain wrote that in his autobiography. He attributed the phrase to Benjamin Disraeli, although its true origin is a matter of some dispute.

Paul F. Velleman of Cornell University wrote that the phrase is commonly used “to suggest dishonest manipulations and interpretations.”

Indeed, statistics are themselves nothing more than objective measurements. The danger comes in interpreting what they mean.

Take the issue of school suspensions.


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