Class Learns how Data can be Manipulated

Photo By John Ferrannini

Cian O'Neill and Victor Lam

Four out of three statistics are made up on the spot. Four out of three students also agree that statistics in D-06 is the most enjoyable class on campus.

Unlike most course teachers, Darren Miller advocates against the dangers which his class, statistics, can present in the wrong hands. Miller preaches that much of the population can fall prey to misinformation by the manipulation of numbers and graphs.

The common consensus of students finds that Miller is similar to a “defense against the dark arts professor”. Though this “Snape’s” teaching methods may be controversial, general agreement is the “stats” teacher’s unique approach provides a stark contrast to the mode and forces students to question material before accepting it.

Despite the range of needs for literary buffs, artists, and the mathematically-challenged, any of these students can find haven in Miller’s class.

Senior Chris Carlson, a published poet, finds few banalities in this course of higher-math. “[Miller] engages a class, with students like me who aren’t as interested in math,” said Carlson. “He provides an open, hands-on learning environment, in which we’re not simply lectured to, but instead are given the chance to learn the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’.“

“Even though I don’t agree with his political views, [we] get along very well” said senior Brodie Mills. “His teaching method of keeping stats fun and interesting, is one that works for me!”

Senior Paul Slater is thankful for such a wise teacher. Slater said “Society cannot insure to every child a good home, a devoted and intelligent mother, and a wise and provident father; but society can insure to every child a good school and a competent teacher.”

“It has real-life applications” senior Matt Hartnett said. “Mr. Miller truly enjoys teaching, which makes the class more enjoyable.”

“Mr. Miller is a fair opportunity soul-crusher[critic],” said senior Shira Darf. “There is no discrimination. Miller spares none and forces kids to hear different points of view. It’s healthy and it builds true critical thinking skills.”

This educator deviates from the norm. Whereas many teachers play favorites, Miller presents an energetic, dynamic, and practical teaching style of unbiased criticism for all students. Thereby, effectively providing an equal opportunity for success to every student. You don’t need pie charts or histograms to tell you that statistics is not your average math class.

That statistics are often used to deceive is a fact made painfully clear by the survey circulated by Darren Miller’s sections of statistics.

“We wanted to be able to show how syntax and loaded language can elicit two different responses to a very similar question” said senior Bethany Bayer.

Armed with two versions of the same survey, Bayer and her fellow classmates infiltrated the student body in order to examine their response patterns.

“It takes more than just one or two patterns to prove a point. We need to see a general trend in order to draw valid conclusions” said Slater.

While Paul Slater and his colleagues pursued overall trends, other groups analyzed more minute ideas.

“How can I get you to answer a question the way I want you to answer, and still maintain the illusion of free will?” asked Mills.

They wanted to demonstrate that, although statistics are mathematical and based in fact, they are malleable in the hands of those who understand their workings. More importantly, they are often used to mislead.

“Just look at the presidential election if you want an example of how detrimental that incorrect or altered data can be,” junior Katherine Yamahata said.

“Romney’s campaign managers were convinced that he held a five point lead that never actually existed, a fact unknown until his loss.”

So what topics interested our statistics students this year? Well, aside from the usual battery of homework and school related questions, our 12th graders generated a few gems. Such urgent questions as, “Do you support civil-unions?” and “Should we kill all of the seagulls on campus?” graced the pages of the survey.

These controversial subjects can make statistics more interesting.

“It’s always good to have a few hot-button questions to get people interested,” senior Anthony Broderick said.

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