Please. I'm a teacher, my wife is a teacher, and my relatives who are far, far older than I am (read "grand" style older) were also teachers. That is such a specious argument it's laughable.
Since we're all teachers in our family, we often speak about how things were and are for ourselves. If I've learned nothing else, it's that being a teacher has become far more onerous a task, with far more oversight put upon the teacher, that I cannot fathom a conversation between ourselves that goes something like, "We're not as held accountable as you guys once were." My grandparents tell me all the time how they used to be able to teach the curriculum in the order they wanted, spend the time they wanted on the sections they could see students struggling with, and so forth. They didn't have proscribed "curriculum maps" which dictated not just the topics, but in some cases the exact page numbers in a textbook they must teach, nor did they have "curriculum timelines" that dictated not just the order of the topics ("you must teach Chapter 5 before Chapter 2 - don't argue, just do it!"), but also the exact number of days you must teach each unit.
In other words, when the students I teach have spent their requisite time on differentiation, if they still have trouble with the derivatives of trigonometric functions, tough luck, sucker - we have to learn integration of trig. Wish I could help you, Johnny, really do, but we'll just have to do that outside of class after school - and I hope you don't get further behind either!
Now, to blame those kind of issues on teachers - as you are doing - is deceiving and disconcerting simultaneously. My student test scores (on my own teacher-made tests, which I worked my way through my master's in education to learn how to improve and reinforce) have steadily declined, even though I've actually become better and more informed as an educator in my subject area. The most glaring reason I can see (beyond sampling error in my students, which is always an issue) is that I have lost the creative freedom I once had 6-7 years ago as an educator to organize and present my curriculum in the most meaningful, most easily connected way possible. In the past, I saw my administrators when they felt there was a need to tour my room, or when I invited them to come, and the district kept its hands off of my teaching. Now, instead, I have administrators doing daily walkthroughs, which is counterproductive to the learning of my students because they [and myself] spend more time worrying about whether or not the student in the back with the cut-off shorts may get pulled out by the administrator for a dress code violation, and myself disciplined because I allowed the student to sit there in cut-offs and [gasp!] learn. I have district personnel who are mandating a progression of curriculum who have no degree in the subject area at all - and therefore no business in dictating how it's taught - but have the authority granted to them by the school board to make such decisions. (Case in point: Try teaching how to apply the Law of Sines or Law of Cosines to solving an oblique triangle before you're "allowed" to teach students what sine or cosine even is. Sure, it can be done, but why?)
The reality is nothing is ever as simple as you portray it. What I've described already shows you how teachers such as myself are being micromanaged to the point of being made automatons. Accountability is high for us as well, especially in our state where test scores are essentially all that matters. Our annual evaluations, and potentially job retention, by law must be > 50% determined by the state assessment. The problem is, the test is a single-day, 3-hour long test. Students can, and do, have bad days. I've personally seen students who were outstanding, 4.0 GPA candidates, and had an especially strong case of the flu, and took the test and failed it that day. There's no recourse for them but to take it again the next year - but the teachers of that student are marked down, along with the school, because of that single test. Admittedly this is a rare occurrence, but you would be naive to presume that every single student will always perform at their true level of ability on a single-day test. What about deaths in the family, or other situations?
What ends up invariably happening, though, is that districts become nervous about these results, so they mandate that schools must include practice curriculum into their schools. This, in turns, leads to knee-jerk reactions of new programs be instantiated, which in turns leads to the need for progressive, formative assessment throughout the year. Naturally, this means a poor student will be subjected to anywhere from 4-6 different testing days scattered throughout the year so the school can get a "snapshot" of their performance. The end result is a student who is so tired of testing by the time the true state test comes around that they are "burned out". The scores end up lower, the school ends up lower, the teachers end up lower, and the problem perpetuates itself while politicians control education without any formal training in education at all. It's not a recipe for success, and it's one which our political society loves to throw completely upon the shoulders of teachers because, quite frankly, it's easier for the common Joe to believe that there's a bunch of lazy and useless teachers out there keeping their kid down than to accept that politics needs to stay the F out of education. After all, if I have power in Washington, do I want my job to go away or some nameless teacher in my district?
I'm not saying that subjective questions can't be allowed in a poll at all; however, if you are trying to use peoples' subjective impressions about the world as data to back up your ostensible claim that media organizations are spreading false information, that's a tenuous set of questions to be using.
Look, if they want to ask questions like, "According to the news channel you watch the most, more scientists believe climate change is occurring than scientists who believe climate change isn't occurring," I'd say you're doing something to minimize confusion and also pin that on the news outlets. But when you phrase it as, "Do you think", you're just leaving the door open for debate on whether we can blame false impressions on the media or on the poll respondent. For instance, you can have a person watch 15 news stories in a row about research studies that find no link between autism and vaccinations, but if their own views are very strongly held about it, that may discolor their ability to predict/opine/discuss how they think other people (scientists) may think about the whole thing. Would that, then, make our claims that their false impressions were caused by what channel they watch? No. All the questions serves to do is probably show that people tend to listen to people who have the same viewpoints as themselves, which isn't exactly a new phenomena.
(By the way, the actual question wasn't addressing global climate change being caused by humans, just whether or not it was occurring at all.)
As for the subjective nature of "most", see my earlier post above. Although the word itself has a clear objective definition (ie, "most is >50%"), people's opinions of what it means in the context of a question can easily be subjective. I asked my statistics course what percentage they would feel comfortable using to represent "most people", and in a room of 35 students, I got almost 10 different answers. Are 9 of those answers "wrong"? Sure, by the definition. But, can I fault those people for having their own conception of "most"? Not really. Imagine a police lineup for a robbery suspect. If 10 eye witnesses all walk in, and 6 people ID the robber while 4 people all point at "fake robber #1", how comfortable would a jury be in using that as determination of guilt, since "most of the witnesses" picked the one guy? What about 51 people against 49? See what I mean? "Most" can be open to personal feelings, but "more people" cannot be open to feelings.
Funny anecdote: today at our school the students were asked to take a survey about their opinions regarding the educators and administrators at the school. I thought that was hilarious timing considering this post today. The number of questions on the survey: 60. You're right, they gave up around question 10 or so. Who could blame them?
Perhaps because I was addressing the parent post that had contended that there was essentially only "one question not provable by facts", when there clearly are questions that are opinion only.
If my conclusion wasn't supported after I looked at the questions, what would have been the point of even posting at all? That makes little sense in this case.
Unfortunately, this organization is going to great lengths to try to state that there's a direct causation between media misrepresentations of facts and individuals' understanding and beliefs of those facts. In that sense, even though they are repeatedly asking questions to establish bias on the respondents' parts, they then try to draw connections between which news service those respondents' pay attention to as a means of supporting their thesis. There's no attempt to simply state that, you know, people might just believe what they want to believe.
I agree that nonresponse bias is always a potentiality and doesn't always make a survey more flawed, but my contention here is that in this one case, it may be critical towards deflating their entire thesis. First off, we don't know how many people truly said "I don't know" versus "I don't want to tell you", since this [scientific] study puts them together as one response. That's a bad statistical design. It's important, because if every one of those was "I don't want to tell you", I'd have good reason to be suspicious about the process itself or the reasons why people might not want to say. Plus, "I don't know" could be just as telling because it would almost counteract their contention that people get too much false information from Fox News, for instance; if they simply don't know the answer at all, then how are they getting false info...they didn't get any at all!
We'll go our separate ways on #35. As you point out, survey writing is a subtle art, but I've seen too many cases (especially when dealing with otherwise "clueless" people) that they'll take cues from anywhere they can get them. Since the purpose of this entire survey was to test how flawed some peoples' understanding of factual information is, it's [in my mind] unfortunate for any preamble to signal any position on the question before it's posed. To me, it would have been "safer" to just make it multiple choice, such as "I believe President Obama was (a) born in the United States, (b) not born in the United States, (c) possibly born in the United States, but I'm not certain," or something similar. Maybe I'm being picky, but I am what I am.
As to your points:
Q11: What if a person does not file income taxes at all (not even a 1040EZ since their income level is either nonexistent or well below the standardized deduction)? In that sense, it's perfectly plausible that the person would have no conceivable notion of what direction their taxes have gone, and therefore any response they offer would be inherently "subjective" since it's not based in objective fact. I don't dispute the idea that the question could be definitively answered (and I even spoke to that when I pointed out that it is, indeed, factually based), but let's be realistic: if the respondents are picked in an SRS fashion (or stratified, or clustered, or whatever), what's the odds the people picked will all know [correctly] how their taxes have changed? How many people even file taxes?
Q32a: This question was posed regarding specifically Chrysler and GM. The ironic part of it, of course, is that even though you say "none" is objectively wrong, even that interpretation is subject to opinion. GM openly disclosed that the majority of the money they paid back came as escrow holding from the bailout funds themselves, which begs the question of whether or not that truly represents paying money back. Otherwise, I agree that "none" is wrong, but I don't agree that the question isn't subjective since it clearly asked "do you think, in the end, the government will recover" rather than "has the government recovered...".
Q34: We'll politely agree to disagree. "Most" does indeed mean a simple majority if you look at the definition, but the capitalization provided in the poll (their emphasis, which is a bad poll design anyway) seems to lean towards an overwhelming majority, rather than perhaps a simple majority. I asked my smaller statistics class of students about this after I posted it originally and got widely varied concepts of what students considered "most" - some of which is reflected in their programs of study. The science majors held a far higher standard of "most" in this case (some went as high as the 75% figure you mentioned), which perhaps reflects their need to find consensus of data in their own fields of work. Given that for "normal respondents" there is some vagueness of what is being asked in the question, it's a poorly written question at best.
I don't argue that they are "less than desirable", but when it comes to trying to describe correlation (fine) and causation (not fine at all from a survey of all things), desirability doesn't factor into it - it must be dropped altogether. Even if we ignore the obvious confounding variables involved, the simple way to at least remove ambiguity is to rephrase the questions to eliminate confusion on the respondents part: "Do you agree or disagree with this statement: More than half of all scientists believe that climate change is occurring." (Note that I still don't like the question as a rule, but at least I know now that they mean literally 50.0001%)
This "poll" is so insanely poor it's not even funny. As a statistics teacher, I'm frankly thankful for things like this because it's fodder for my classroom discussions as we tear apart the problems with the poll. It's rife with bias (in the statistical sense, not in the political sense), on a variety of fronts. First off, there's potential undercoverage bias, since they "scientifically" randomly choose participants based off of telephone numbers and residential addresses - two types of situations that can typically undercover for bias. What if a person has no phone number to choose (or an unlisted/cell number)? Let's not overlook the simple possibility of people who are currently homeless - perhaps as a result of the economy being quizzed about.
Next, there's always nonresponse bias involved. They selected people and asked if they'd like to participate. From the results posted, it's impossible to tell how much nonresponse bias is present since they always lumped together "don't know / refused" for their data reports. Classically simple way of fudging how many people refuse to respond to a question.
There are a handful of potential response bias situations in the questions being asked, of course. Question #35 deals with people's belief in Obama's birthplace. However, the question is preceded by the statement: "As you may know, some people have suggested that President Obama was not born in the United States." That potentially taints the value of the question, as people who might not have thought otherwise may be inclined to now think it's unclear based upon that information. The same could be said to be true for Question #34a.
As I said, the value of this "poll" is sketchy at best, although from my educational perspective it's a fantastic opportunity to talk about everything that's wrong with it. I'm a little disappointed that university level statisticians would put their names on this, unless of course they are being paid to do so - which is very possible.
So, what you're saying is anticompetitive behavior is perfectly acceptable as long as there are alternatives? What's your opinion on Microsoft? Are they "demons", or a legitimate monopoly concern?
When Intel was demonstrably shown to deliberately cripple the performance of source code compiled using their compiler for any CPU other than "Genuine Intel", which is part of the reason they eventually settled with AMD, that was something AMD and everyone else should "get the f--k over"? It's perfectly fine because if people don't like it, they can just use something else? Nevermind that many corporations licensed and used Intel's compiler and had their own products possibly reduced in functionality or lost business as a result. They should have just chose a different compiler, right?
Or, what about Microsoft? Sure, Internet Explorer is wired directly into the operating system. Sure, everyone is forced into using it whether or not they want to. Sure, Microsoft just so happens to be the OS on most computers. Ahh, heck, it's no problem - people should just get over it because they can always download Firefox, or Opera, or Safari. No reason to get your panties in a wad, right?
This isn't always about people being pissed at Apple for locking out Flash. And I agree with TFA in that people seem to be thinking of this as a deity-provided right. That's probably the wrong way to look at it. I look at it as the slowly growing and likely dominant force in mobile electronics deciding on their own what's right for the marketplace, and using their de facto power as such to control what happens.
We're looking at 1 million+ iPad units sold in about a month. As other articles state, they are killing netbook sales. They are well on their way to becoming the only viable choice in the market for portable electronic computers - just as they are for portable electronic music players - just as they are slowly becoming for portable phones.
When Apple has that position and leverage, that gives them the power to dictate everything about it. If they deny Flash, they are putting a strangle on a [proprietary] product. This is very similar to Microsoft and the entire Internet Explorer antitrust debacle. Microsoft was found guilty of using their installed base as a means of pushing Internet Explorer above all other browsers (even though choices for users existed), and they were also accused of modifying their APIs to be accessible and favorable for IE over other browsers. They were accused of using their market share as leverage against 3rd party OEMs by binding them into capricious and damaging contracts.
Apple is turning into the same beast. Naturally you can write in their language or make the choice to not write for Apple at all. You have an option...but a poor one. You either write for Apple using what they tell you to do, and address a market of 1 million+ iPads, or you write in the language you want (Flash, etc), and sell to a market that's getting smaller day by day.
This isn't "me me me" crap - this is an erosion of the concept of competition. It wasn't allowed for Microsoft, and it shouldn't be allowed here. Apple is taking away my choices as a programmer who wants to make a living developing applications. For now, it might not be so grim because there are other choices; look to the future when the market is just Apple and that's it and the future is much darker. (Ask the people who were waiting for Courier or Slate to be alternatives to iPad...so much for that...)
It's exaggerated hyperbole to the extreme, but your specious argument is tantamount to saying you get a choice of "death by strangling" or "death by evisceration and strangling with your entrails". In either case, the end result isn't good for you...but hey, quit bitching because at least we gave you a choice!
At the risk of being rude, are you a teacher yourself in the classroom on a daily basis?
It never ceases to amaze me how the behavioral problems of students in classrooms is, like everything else, immediately the fault of the teacher. Johnny is enjoying playing on his brand new 3GS iPhone in class? It must be because the lesson plan is boring or the teacher doesn't care. Give me a break.
I guess the reality is it's easier to blame everyone else except the student (at first) or the parents (next) for the behavior of their students. Every single class I've ever taught (and I primarily teach advanced elective courses) will invariably have the 1 or 2 students who feel as though the rules and policies do not apply to them. There'll be 20 students eagerly enjoying the lesson, using the AirLiner to share answers with the class on the LCD projector, or competing in our class competitions. They're engaged, learning, and having fun. And then you have the 2 in the back with their Nintendo DSs or their PSPs or their iPhones playing games against each other.
I guess I'm at fault because I was only 90.9% effective at engaging the students. I guess it's my fault that I explained the rules of the classroom and tried to punish students. I guess it's my fault when I followed county policy and had a security guard take their PSP to the office to be returned at the end of the day - and then got accused by the parents of stealing their PSP. (I would give my arm for video cameras to tape my classes every minute of every day!)
I agree that jamming probably isn't the solution here, but in our litigious society, anything we do about it tends to make a sue-happy parent come after the teacher, school, or district. What's your suggested solution?
That's a nifty idea, but I know our district has outlawed any practice that involves using grades as a means of disciplining a student. We're not allowed to touch their grades if the reason is anything other than a completed assignment, assessment, or some such.
Heck, we can have a student miss 160 out of the 180 days of school, and we're required by the district to give them every single assignment and assessment they've missed, and give them a grade for it if they complete it by the final day of class. If not, we're in trouble because we're "denying the opportunity for an education." It's the same policy that prevents grading down.
Torque is cheap.