Local media committed journalistic malpractice this week by publishing a divisive story full of obvious errors.
It originated with a small, and shrinking, liberal newspaper, which published claims that girls with black skin are treated unfairly in the schools. Other outlets parroted the claims.
The data may or may not have been accurate but the methodology of the report was shockingly inept.
The Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center published the report claiming that black girls get more punishment than white girls.
The obvious explanation is that black girls deserve more punishment because they misbehave more often.
But this was swept away with the assertion by the group’s president that “Black girls do not misbehave more than their white peers….”
She presented no data to support that dubious assertion.
The shoddy report violates one of the central rules of research: association is not the same as causation.
As James Agresti wrote in Just Facts, “.. it is vital to emphasize one of the most important and neglected facts of public policy: association does not prove causation. This is commonly taught in high school math, but it is routinely ignored by Ph.D. scholars, journalists, and commentators. In the words of an academic textbook about analyzing data:
“Association is not the same as causation. This issue is a persistent problem in empirical analysis in the social sciences. Often the investigator will plot two variables and use the tight relationship obtained to draw absolutely ridiculous or completely erroneous conclusions. Because we so often confuse association and causation, it is extremely easy to be convinced that a tight relationship between two variables means that one is causing the other. This is simply not true.”
This same error, while making similar claims, has been exposed before.
The local media eagerly wrote stories accusing Florida schools and the justice system of racism, and didn’t even question the methodology of this faulty report.
It is another example of how “critical race theory” is being inculcated by liberals and the media. National Review this week called this what it is, “divisive and dangerous.”