Does COVID-19 Prove That Statistics Should Be A Core High School Subject?

Written by: Matthew Turco | Posted on: | Category:

Last week, I read this excellent article on The Atlantic website covering all the intricacies and difficulties surrounding the coronavirus. And then when you look at the politics of it, I’m again reminded that logic itself is hard enough, but rigorous logic is even harder — numerators, denominators, probabilities, the effects of false positives and negatives, the law of large numbers, common biases, etc.

If you read any good article about how crazy it has been over the past couple of months trying to get through this coronavirus situation and start to understand what the true risks are of longer or shorter lockdowns, various treatments, fast- tracked vaccines, ventilators, etc., you really begin to appreciate how easy it has been to be misled by not looking at the entire picture and how harmful it can be when thousands of people are making public (digitally distributed) comments based on incorrect information or assumptions.

This all makes an excellent case why statistics should be taught in every high school. It is far more useful than trigonometry and calculus (although I’m certainly in favor of those as well). Should we even be allowed to vote until we can demonstrate understanding both in how probabilities & statistics work and how people can lie using statistics? Isn’t that what high school is supposed to ensure — an educated populace?