Thursday, February 9, 2017

Bureau of Specious Statistics, Student Edition

The cost of college is forcing students to become homeless!  Oh, wait, that's completely not true...

When you want to sell a narrative, you fit all your data to the narrative, rather than take your data and figure out what reality is from the data.   One reason I am sick and tired of my own political party is that they have been harping on these left-wing "narratives" for so long, and they are largely a bunch of hooey.   Sadly, the right-wing people harp on the same narratives.

The basic narrative is that as Americans we are incredibly put-on people - we are poor, starving, and struggling to get by paycheck-to-paycheck.   Those folks in Somalia don't know how lucky they have it in the refugee camp!  They should stay there rather than come here and have to deal with the tragedy of going over your data cap on your cell phone plan.

But seriously, I am just sick of people in America whining about how awful things are - and politicians encouraging this sort of shitty behavior.   What ever happened to "ask not what your country can do for you.....?"   Today it is, "Oh, things are so awful, bail me out!".

Anyway, getting back to National People's Radio, this morning, another clock radio hits the wall and shatters into a million pieces.   This does get me out of bed in the morning, but clock radios are getting harder and harder to come by these days as everyone has a smart phone. 

NPR pushes a piece that panders to another narrative the Left has been pushing - that college is "too expensive" and students are drowning in student loan debt.   Again, the average student loan debt in this country is about 25 grand - hardly enough to drown in, considering that is less than the average cost of a new car.   But that is the narrative, the meme, as it were - that we should all feel sorry for ourselves, starting right out of college.

And let me tell you, it is a shitty way to go through life.  If you take this route, you will never amount to anything at all, and I can point to any number of my contemporaries who are proof of this - people who will tell you that there is no point in trying in life, because the rich people took all your money.  And after they exhale their bong hit, they will tell you that people like me "sold out to the man" which is how we became successful.

My suggestion is to try this "selling out to the man" gig, because it is pretty decent.  All you need do is take your life a little more seriously, stop smoking pot, put some money aside, and stop blaming other people for your own problems.

Getting back to NPR, the story today is that the "high cost of education" is forcing students to become homeless.   What a shocking story, if it were true.

It isn't.   The radio station that calls out Trump for "alternative facts" pushes a fake news story down our throats.

The issue isn't students becoming homeless because education is expensive, but homeless people going back to college getting an education do struggle to get by.

Homeless people going to college.   Read that again.  That's a success story, isn't it?  I mean, we should be happy that a homeless person is going back to school to get a degree, right?  From the story:
One first-year student at Bunker Hill, whose name we aren't using to protect her safety and privacy, was living in a shelter in Boston last summer when she first decided she wanted to enroll in classes here.
But she says that shelter didn't feel safe. "If I wanted to get good grades, if I wanted to get a good education, I needed to be at a slightly safer shelter," she says.
She was put on a long waiting list for a bed at a youth home and finally got in after six months. That's when she enrolled at Bunker Hill.
Now she's majoring in math.
"I knew that I really loved learning, but I wasn't sure if I was going to fit into the education system."
If you read the headline, you'd think that college drove them to homelessness.  But rather the reverse is true - homelessness drove them to college.   And it is a struggle to pay for college and support yourself at the same time.   I know this from experience.  During my last year at Syracuse, I had to support myself with as many as three part-time jobs, as I took a leave of absence from Carrier (I even worked there as a co-op student while on leave!).   Delivering pizzas, tutoring calculus, working at Planned Parenthood, sorting boxes at United Parcel.  It was hard work, sometimes until 4 AM.

And when I got paid, I often went to the grocery and bought a huge bag of rice, a jar of peanut butter, and other staples, and planned out my meals for the next week - until the next payday - so I could survive and have food.   Things were pretty tight.  But I knew that at the end of the day the sacrifice would be worth it, and you know, it wasn't so bad at the time, kind of fun, actually.   Hard work is rewarding, no matter what the bong-hit crowd tries to sell you.

Now the only thing I would tell this young woman is to think about where a math degree is going to take you.  Because other than to teach math, it really isn't necessarily going to line you up for a job after graduation.   If you go on to study number theory and advanced math, the NSA will knock at your door, as they are looking for cryptologists.   But teaching certainly can pay well these days.  Sadly, you may have to get one of those lame Masters Degrees in education before you "qualify" and after all that, you'll make less than the gym teacher.   But it beats being homeless!

Now, this is not to say there are not homeless college students.  There are.  But to say the high cost of college forces them to be homeless is completely untrue.   In their own example, NPR reports that the student in question was homeless before they went to college.   They were homeless either way, isn't it better they are going to college now?   They won't be homeless for long, if they continue down this path.

But that doesn't fit NPR's preconceived narratives.   And narrative #1 is that rich people took away all our money and made us homeless.   Narrative #2 is that college is too expensive today and should be for free - a la Bernie Sanders.   So they take this story and turn it on its head - not as a heartwarming success story about a homeless person turning their life around, but another example of our heartless society forcing students into homelessness.

This is untrue.  This is false.  This is a lie.

This is fake news.

And what is really, really sad about this, is that NPR is supposed to be the good guys.   They are supposed to be the ones to debunk fake news, not spread it.   But I guess that stopped being the case ages ago when they fired Bob Edwards.   It hasn't been the same since!