An interesting snippet from over at the Volokh Conspiracy, where former students sued their law school for publishing misleading statistics.
The court ruled that the salary statistics published by the school were truly misleading, but in the end caveat emptor prevailed. Apparently the schools had published average salary data, but only for those students who actually got jobs. The court ruled that:
….even though Plaintiffs did not know the truth of how many graduates were used to calculate the average salary, at the very least, it is clear that the Employment Report has competing representations of truth. With red flags waiving and cautionary bells ringing, an ordinary prudent person would not have relied on the statistics to decide to spend $100,000 or more.
I do love legal language at times, and I was fairly amused by the phrase “competing representations of truth”. While in this case it was clear cut what information would have been most useful to the consumer, it’s often unclear what statistical breakdown represents “actual reality” and such. I did think that perhaps the court was giving the public too much credit though, when it cited what an “ordinary prudent” person would do (or is it just that not many prudent people exist?).
I’ve been reading Tom Naughton’s blog quite a bit lately, and he often quotes his college physics professor’s advice to all of his students. It’s a good quote, one that I think should be taught to all students freshmen year of high school. In fact, it should have been used in this court decision: “Learn math. Math is how you know when they’re lying to you.”