AMERICAN STATISTICS

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By: Wayne Brown




Today’s political atmosphere and climate of entitlement in the United States is a very disappointing scenario to me as a “Baby Boomer” generation adult who grew up in this country watching people work hard for their individual successes with no guarantee that it would ever come. Today, we see college graduates entering the workplace demanding to have a safety net under them so they don’t get hurt if they happen to fail at anything they attempt. Somewhere along the line, we lost it as a country and as a people. Somewhere along the way, we tossed out our self-respect and pride in exchange for a handful of empty promises. For a 200+ year old country, it appears that we have not learned much of value on our journey to the present.


Hearing President Obama speak about wealth redistribution and all the advantages of it reminds me how much his thought processes match those of the “entitlement” society which has been created in this country over time. My dad told me stories of hard times in the south following the Great Depression. He talked of share-cropping and how little real money was around that one could earn. Most people were getting by but even that was a relative success compared to the ones who fell by the wayside and needed a hand up. Even in that level of desperation, those people had their pride and still retained their desire to lose their dependency on others for food and shelter as quickly as they could. Today, we seem to have a different mindset. Pride is out the window as is self-respect when it becomes apparent that there is “free” government money out there to be had just for the asking and getting it is just a matter of “gaming” the system. As a people, we have become far too tolerant of what we see in front of us and we have made it far too easy for those who could care less to take what they want for as long as they want. In many ways, we are nation that condones cheating.


My parents taught me a lot of things as I was growing up. You might say that I was verbally pounded with the reasoning that being a cheat, a liar, a thief, and a drug addict was beyond my reach as a human being. I was to treat people like I wanted to be treated. My word was my bond and I was only as good as my word. My value was measured by what I brought to the table even if it was only a strong back, a desire to work, and a willingness to learn. All those things created a “centerline” in life for me so that no matter how far right or left I might veer, I always knew the way back to the middle of life’s path. Over time, I came to value those lessons and realized that was the true meaning of “protecting one’s good name”. We can never be just who we see in the mirror for others will always have an image of us which we have created for them…good or bad.


There are lessons in life which one can experience that stay with them for a lifetime continuing to be a reminder of right and wrong. When we toss those reminders out like trash, we generally start making the same mistakes over again and again. Mankind, regardless of education level, has the inherent ability to gather information, apply reasoning and common sense and come up with alternative but mankind must apply the process first. Today, we are have a highly educated society yet one does not have to look to hard to see those with intelligence and reasoning coming to stupid conclusions. I find myself wondering if those folks are serving up that level of stupidity just to check the waters around them or if they are actually that short-changed in the area of intelligence and common sense. I cannot think in such terms without remembering Nancy Pelosi’s reasoning of how “unemployment checks” are a stimulus to the economy and growth.


In my college days, I had a particular human experience which has remained with my since that time. The outcome of that experience was very specific but I continually find parallels to it in life thus it is a constant reminder to me in terms of reasoning and common sense. The lesson I learned from the experience always makes me return things to their simple forms….getting down to 2 plus 2 equals 4. When those simple numbers do not add up, then I know that someone out there is attempting to sell me some snake-oil that I do not want.


I had to take a statistics course in order to fill out my graduation requirement for my college degree. I did not relish the idea but there was no getting around it so I signed up praying that it would not be too difficult. In the end, had I understood the difficulty, I would have known that I was probably doomed from the start. Sometimes, not knowing, is a good thing. At any rate, I signed up and said a little prayer hoping that I could get by enough to at least pass the course.


The course was taught by a young whiz-kid Ph.D in his late 20’s. The school operated on the “quarter-system” rather than on the semester concept, so basically there was about three months available to absorb the same course which was taught in other schools on a six-month term. Understanding this, the young professor moved through the material like an out of control wild west brush fire. By the mid-quarter point, the entire class was struggling with the material. The professor had announced that he administer a mid-quarter exam and a final which would establish our grade point for the course. The opportunity for failure was immense on this runaway train that was headed in only one direction and not stopping for anyone.


The class had approximately 50 students in it from all disciplines on the campus. I really did not know anyone in the class except to recognize them as part of the class when I saw them at other places on the campus. Most of us said “hello” as we passed at the post office or in the student center. Occasionally, we would talk briefly about the course and share our misery on how we were struggling to keep up but that was about the depth of it. We all sat in dread of the mid-quarter exam which was rapidly approaching. I studied alone the night before hoping I could get an epiphany in terms of understanding the material well enough to pass by the skin of my teeth. For the first time in life, I was confronting possible failure headlong and I felt helpless as to what I could do about it. I was also in panic because I had never really failed at anything to that point…I didn’t know how to fail and recover but I feared that I was about to learn.


On the day of the mid-quarter exam, the young professor showed up with paper copies of his promised exam in hand. He walked about the classroom passing one out to each of us and then gave us the signal to get started. We had one hour to complete the exam. The questions were constructed as either fill in the blank or multiple choice. On that basis, I had a sense of relief knowing that even a blind hog occasionally finds an acorn. Maybe I would get lucky and make a passing grade simply on the basis of picking the right multiple choice answers. Then an event took place which changed the direction of everything. Having given the signal to begin the test, the professor walked out of the room and closed the door leaving the class totally unsupervised. It was at this point that suddenly everyone in that room was confronted with a new set of alternative. It did not take very long for a large part of them to make their choice in terms of the alternative.


Never before as a student had I witnessed the level of cheating that was going on openly in that classroom. Answers to various questions were being batted about the room. “What is number 23?” was immediately met with a shout of “B”, and on and on. Right there, at that moment, I had to decide if I would be a part of this and maybe pass or if I would ignore it and go it along. I chose the latter reasoning that mama taught me better and besides that, how could I trust their answers…I didn’t know them. I made my bed with conscience and prepared for failure.


When the resulting grades were posted for the exam, it was apparent that there was no single Einstein among us in the class. I made a “D”….barely scrapping by for a pass yet it looked like an “A+” to me as I breathed a sigh of relief. That relief would not last long as the final exam was hovering just a few weeks away. I was still standing very close to the edge of the cliff and could easily still fall into that failure pit. I did take some solace in noting the grades of some of those involved in the cheating….several had failed and most had only barely passed. I failed to see the reward of cheating in the results.


Time ticked away and soon we were within days and hours of taking the final for the course. I ran into other students in the snack bar and asked how they planned to prepare. I was amazed at the most common answer….”hey, we’ll just do what we did the last time…cheat!” It was almost too funny to think about when I realized that someone had to study and bring the information to the test otherwise what would be the reference for the cheating. Here I was confronted with the opportunity to choose once again…cheat or go it alone. I stuck to my choice that I had used earlier….I would go it alone.


On the day of the final, we witnessed a behavior in the young professor which mirrored his actions on the mid-quarter exam. He walked about passing out the individual copies of his multiple page test and when each student had one, he gave us the signal to begin and left the room closing the door behind him. I remember thinking, “how can such a well-educated, intelligent man be so dumb and unaware?” I could not come up with an answer for that one even though the content of the course on which I was being test was heavily steeped in the principles of logic. Once the door was closed, the class fell into a similar pattern of behavior as witnessed at the mid-quarter exam. Questions were shouted out by number only and answers were announced by letter choice for the multiple choice exam. I sat there guessing at the answers still not convinced that what I was hearing had any substance as the “correct answer”.


At the end of the allotted time, the young professor returned and collected the exams. He told us that the grades for the final and the overall grades for the course would be posted outside the classroom within five days. We were to check back occasionally for the results. True to his promise, the results were there on the bulletin board for all to see by the third day. When I arrive there was a small crowd gathered. I moved in close to them in my attempt to find my grade. There were no grades there on the board. Instead, there was an announcement posted which stated: “Due to the large number of discrepancies in the final exam results the grades for the exam are being withheld along with the final grades for the course for all students except the following individuals.” Five names were listed there and among them was mine. I was convinced before I ever showed up to obtain the results that I had failed yet in failure I had passed. The values that my parents had taught me hit home with me hard that day. By completing the course, I had not learned enough about statistics but I had learned a hell of a lot about life and its consequences. That experience is never far from my mind when I make my choices today.


The young professor was also a lot smarter and more intelligent that those great minds in the classroom. He knew what was going to take place when he closed that door and left an unsupervised classroom. In fact, he probably knew statistically what the resulting outcome would be in advance. He had shrewdly passed out multiple versions of multiple-test exam copies on which none of the numbered questions were the same on any two copies. The rationale for accepting the answer for question #23 as choice “B” had flown right out the door when he closed it behind him. On that basis, it was readily apparent to him who had cheated and who had not. In the end, I thought he was a pretty smart guy and it gave me a greater appreciation of the use of statistics in life.


One of the greatest things about the USA is the recognition of our God-given rights to freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These are rights which the Founding Fathers recognized and acknowledge are granted to mankind by God, and only God can take them away. They clearly made that statement and that awareness apparent in constructing the Bill of Rights. At the same time, there is no mention of a “safety net”, there is not guarantee of success or happiness for that matter. We are free to choose and free to have alternatives from which to choose, and we can cast our own net in terms of the happiness we create for ourselves. We create it….no one else is responsible or accountable in that respect. We have the power to choose our direction in life and we are the ones who reap the results…good or bad. In many ways, it is a very simple concept yet it is ignored by so many who want someone else to decide their fate, guarantee their outcomes, and provide for their happiness. When we look at it from that perspective, it becomes apparent why we are where we are today in this country. Too many parents no longer teach values; too many classrooms emphasize social interaction over the importance of history and principles of our country. That centerline of life’s road which was painted so brightly for me is not as clear for today’s generations. It is no wonder that we have come to this place in the road with so many in our nation willing to throw everything aside for the utopian promises of hope and change….totally ready to undergo a fundamental transformation into something totally undefined. What a shame. What a failure.


Beyond my college days, there were other lesson life taught that come to mind but those are for another time for me to share. For this one, I hope that you will remember that the risk of failure is always before us in anything we do. Given that premise, we cannot allow the possibility of experiencing failure to change who us or our values. The outcome has no worth for we have “cheated” in order to garner achievement or success, both of which will be empty. Sometimes it is truly the failures that we experience in life that reminds us who we are and why. God Bless America!



©Copyright WBrown2012. All Rights Reserved.


20 September 2012


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Comments 17 comments

Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

Wonerfully done. How important is that right to fail? Wow. I believe it is the single most important element as to why communism is collapsing and freedom flourishing.


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 4 years ago from Texas Author

@Ericdierker....Thanks so much. It is certainly the longest running farce in the history of the world and it is sold time and time again as the pathway to utopia for all who aspire to a better life. I want the right to fail within my control but I do not want to be doomed to it a an ill-conceived government entity. Thanks, Eric! ~WB


drbj profile image

drbj 4 years ago from south Florida

What a significant lesson you learned in that statistics course, Wayne. Bravo to that professor and Bravo to you for recognizing that we pass or fail in life due to our own efforts.

Somewhere along the line current generations seem to have missed the boat and see entitlement as their reward - not earning by their efforts. Can we turn the boat around at this point? That is the question.

BTW, Statistics was my hardest class in college and the one I had to study the hardest for. So I can feel your long ago pain.

Bravo for this intelligent hub which says what many in our population need to know.


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 4 years ago from Texas Author

@drbj...I struggled with math and stats through college and wouldn't you know it....my next two jobs relied heavily on math and probability. Sometimes life deals us the cards that we are the weakest at playing. I survived but I struggled. Statistics was a trip not so much mathematically as philosophically. Still, I got more practical knowledge of that that one course in that learning scenario than many that I took in college. Thanks much! ~WB


Conservative Lady profile image

Conservative Lady 4 years ago from Surprise Arizona - formerly resided in Washington State

If there ever was a great temptation - that was it! Statistics is a very difficult class and not being able to accept failure I bought 6 different stats books until one finally made some sense to me - I passed but not by much. Your parents raised you right Wayne- I hope those who didn't have the best parenting can still learn from what you have written here. Voted Up and all - Good lesson and enjoyable read.


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 4 years ago from Texas Author

@Conservative Lady...Thank you! I feel a bit more intelligent knowing that so many wrestled in the same fashion with this very same course of study. Ironically, part of my job today is helping the people I supervise deal with the results of some statistical processes....I have been forced to gain a better understanding than they have in order to explain things to them.....life is such! LOL! ~WB


William Young profile image

William Young 4 years ago from Eaglle Grove, Iowa

Excellent Hub, Wayne! America is supposed to be a place where you work hard, and yes you might fail. And you might fail again, but you don't give up and you don't live with the expectation that the government owes you a living. I remember the story of a sophomore in high school in Wilmington, North Carolina who tried out for the varsity basketball team and he didn't make the team. His coach felt that he just wasn't ready to play varsity basketball. That kid never gave up, worked harder than he'd ever worked before, and the next year he made the team. That kid's name was Michael Jordan. That is what you can do in America when you apply yourself!


The Frog Prince profile image

The Frog Prince 4 years ago from Arlington, TX

Wayne - When I saw that opening chart I had flashbacks of the logic course I took in college. Many more people might be well served to take a course in logic and critical thinking.

I'm like you. At times I just don't get it. All one has to do is study history, some of it rather recent such as the Euro crisis, to see what the problem with Karl Marx's theory of redistribution results in. The Soviet Union collapsed around itself. China had to reverse course and bring in a market economy, though a fragile one that exploits the workers of that nation. The list can go on and on and is right there for any intelligent person to see.

The fact that Obama has more than a few Marxist tendencies embedded in him should come as no surprise to any thinking, reading, watching human. Read his books. Go see 2016, Obama's America and you will reach an understanding of just why the man despises this nation. He was taught that as he grew up. You are are a product of your upbringing, as I am and so is Obama. The acorn really never does fall far from the tree.

Go see the documentary if you haven't done so regardless of what political party wants to try to guide your taught process. If you are an American then you need to see it. Go and see for yourself what many are now seeing and realizing. Obama does not ultimately have the best interests of this nation at heart.

The Frog


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 4 years ago from Texas Author

@William Young....An excellent example of the choices in life and how they relate to success for failure. Michael Jordan had every opportunity at the outset to declare himself an "angry young black man" who was being held back by his school and his coach because he was black...he could have played that race card just the way it gets played today....too often masking the truth and justifying the status quo. Instead, he saw it as a challenge and answered the call...what an outcome and what a great story of human ability. Such behavior across our population would do more to eliminate proverty and feelings inadequacy than anything a government can do. People are far more capable that they themselves believe but they must have the leadership that brings out their tenacity and desire to succeed in life. Thanks much! ~WB

@The Frog Prince...I absolutely agree, Jim on every point. Regardless of political orientation, the movie will connect a lot of dots very effectively and, at the very, least cause one to challenge their own thinking one way or another. I am reminded of a video that "drbj" recently used in one of her hubs which demonstrated our ability to pay attention and multi-task. It all revolved around two groups dressed in black and white tops throwing basketballs back and forth as they wove around each other. The task was to count the number of times the white team exchanged the ball. The viewer becomes totally focused on the task to the point that during the run of the video, a guy dressed as a bear actually dances through the middle of the crowd and "moon-walks" in the process. The viewer does not see it happen. This is much the same that is going on with Obama. He speaks of transparency and doing the right thing to create the aura that people expect then does whatever the hell he choses with little or know challenge. Like a major conspiracy, he is carrying out a major change of our society right in front of our eyes and with at least a third or more of the population, it does not register or if it does it causes no alarm because they have no recognition or association with socialism or communism in their life. Some folks need to wake up and fast if we are to pull out of this situation with our republic intact. That is for sure. That is why this election is the most important one in USA history. Thanks much! WB


CMerritt profile image

CMerritt 4 years ago from Pendleton, Indiana

My opinion is that at one time, years ago....we, as Americans, believed there was a degree of "shame" in being poor. Not that we believed we were better than anyone else, but we used that emotion of wanting to better ourselves, so our kids would not have to go through what we did. To have yet a better life to live than the previous generation. That "desire" to work a little harder in school, to stay an extra hour at work, to do the "extra" little things that made us a little better at what we did, so that our "worth" and "value" to those we worked for actually paid off.

Wayne, you said it all.....some old fashion moral values, hard- work and jumping at opportunities, is what made this country great.


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 4 years ago from Texas Author

@CMerritt....I agree with you, Chris. There was a burning in people's gut back in the day to achieve the next plateau so that the next generation of the family had it a bit better. Many succeeded in that process and did a fine job of it. But, our underbelly got soft and too many things came too easy. Technology brought with it instantaneous gratification. Our priorities shifted....better get that big screen television and let that retirement plan savings be something the government does. Far too many of those in poverty today sure have a lot of toys to entertain themselves with yet have to look to others to provide the necessities of food and shelter....done completely without humility or shame. Our younger generation complains about college debt yet fails to be thankful for the opportunity to go or the opportunity to secure the loan....they want the benefits of it but do not want to be burdened with paying it back...good name or not. We are becoming a nation of "quitters" who easily tire of things....marriage, cars, toys, etc. and throw them aside looking for new exhilarations. Along the way, the money needed for basic security is thrown to the wind and the expectation that government is responsible replaces it. Obama and company love such a mindset for the it is ripe for hope and change and easily accepts the promise of an undefined utopia. Sad. Thanks much for the good words! ~WB


Ruchira profile image

Ruchira 4 years ago from United States

Hi Wayne,

It was interesting to read your experiences of life.

Sometimes, the fear of failure makes us change of what we originally were and also the peer pressure to succeed.

It takes one to be very strong to be sticking to one's ideals and values.

Regarding me...I admit I do bend a little here and there but then come back to my roots telling myself of what "really" do I desire.

voted up as useful and interesting!


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 4 years ago from Texas Author

@Ruchira....I am much the same way...certainly not the poster child for angels but I was lucky as it sound like you were to get a strong sense of center so I always turn back to the right thing. I like that! Thanks much! ~WB


poetvix profile image

poetvix 4 years ago from Gone from Texas but still in the south. Surrounded by God's country.

You point out so well the attitude change that has infected our nation, the lack of moral compass we failed to instill within the youth of our nation. Your relation of this through the story of your experience in statistics class and with the exposure to the basic though sad fact that many of us will cheat given the opportunity was as entertaining as it was interesting and insightful. I remember my own experience with the dreaded requirement of Statistical Research Design and Methodology. I was blessed to have a great professional statistician as a professor and she drilled it into my head. I also remember walking out with the knowledge there exists no more deceptive tool on the planet than inferential statistics.

This was as thought provoking as it is a true and sad commentary on the state of the American mindset. Thank you!


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 4 years ago from Texas Author

@poetvix...Yes, there are two real problems with statistics both related to the human factor. One is the process of invoking or using it and the other is the process of analyzing and interpreting the results. A flaw in either end yields the difference between probability and crap. For the untrained, crap can be dressed up and made to look pretty palatable with statistics. Politicians and statistics were never meant to be in the same room. Numbers lie sometimes and politicians lie all the time so the odds are never in our favor. Glad to hear that your experience with the science was far better than mine in the "getting it" sense. Thanks much! ~WB


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

Wayne....fellow boomer here, echoing every word you wrote. Seems to me "Statistics" should be a REQUIRED course for all.....no choices! Thanks for your ever-filled-with-truth and wisdom, Hubs, Wayne.

UP+++


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 4 years ago from Texas Author

@fpherj48....I agree! We might have a different world today if more folks stopped and asked what is logical before they dived in head-first. Too often emotions of the heart control decisions of the mind....the brain loses every time and logic goes out the window. To me it seems that even at the highest level of intellect there is always some form of residual ignorance lurking about. Thanks much! ~WB

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