Do Facts and Data Matter? What About Sourcing?
The obvious answer for most folks these questions is "yes," although we often demonstrate that's not the case.
Take this piece that's making the rounds from Salon.com entitled "Tennessee: Ayn Rand's Vision of Paradise." I knew instantly this article was going to be a hit piece on the Volunteer State.
The story goes downhill quickly from there. Writes Les Leopold:
As you would expect, [Tennessee's last place ranking in per capita tax revenue] translates into hard times for its public school systems, which rank 48th in school revenues per student and 45th in teacher salaries.
Never mind the fact that using the data linked to in the article, Tennessee average teacher salaries were only $500 less than those in Arkansas, and $1,200 above those in West Virginia (page 36, Table C-9 of the pdf if you're checking my homework) ...and yet those two states made the top ten states with the best public schools as scored by Education Week. And of course, we should ignore the fact Tennessee's cost of living is ten points below the national average.
Leopold goes on to add:
By the way, the Tennessee legislature is lily-white: One percent is Latino, 6% African American and 91% Caucasian. But the complexion of poverty is darker. Nearly 80 percent of Tennessee’s poor children are black and brown.
And there you go: the problems facing Tennessee are caused by the fact its legislature is predominately white. Followed to its logical conclusion, states and cities where the governing bodies are not predominantly white would have much better results. Places like Detroit, which not so long ago had the nation's worst drop out rate, according to NPR and where only seven percent of its eight graders could read at grade level. And by the way, while I am picking on Detroit (the birth place of my father, I might add), their per pupil funding levels were between $2,000 and $5,000 above the national average.
Just in case you're wondering, I'm not blaming the failing school system in Detroit on the racial make up of its board of education. The board's racial makeup, along with the racial make up of the Tennessee legislature, has absolutely no bearing on the quality of policy decisions they make.
Oh, by the way - in case keeping score matters - Tennessee public schools were ranked 21st in a recent study.
I could go on here. And if you want to blow up my Facebook page or the comments section below taking issue with my criticism of the Salon piece, that's fine. I'm not going to argue with you, because I'm trying to make a bigger point here, which is this: we get to the correct conclusions and solutions much quicker when we are willing to be intellectually honest and look at all of the data. Note I'm not claiming Tennessee is perfect; every state has its problems. Nor am I claiming Tennessee doesn't consider some really bad legislation from time to time; again, every state does. But I am claiming that pieces like this one from Salon don't drill down into the data deeply enough - and if I could be so bold as to say honestly enough - to present a meaningful analysis of the state's situation.
Friends, we drown in news and opinions every day. I get it. The Internet is a wonderful thing, but it's often difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff when it comes to reliable data and accurate information.
That's one of the challenges we in the preparedness movement face - getting accurate information. With all of the stories of the government stockpiling ammo, the European banks taking depositors' money, and evangelical Christians, Catholics and Mormons being named religious extremists in military training presentations, it's now more imperative than ever that we make sure we have as much objective, factually accurate data as we can get. It's a difficult burden to bear, of course. But if we are to be prepared for a wide spectrum of contingencies, we must seek the truth. That's one of the many tasks on our to do lists.