What Do We Really Know? This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

   This is a dangerous world we live in. The number of murders goes up every year, people are dying of cancer, more people contract HIV, teen pregnancies are up, more teens are using drugs, etc. You know this because you've heard all the statistics on the news and in the paper. But do you really have an accurate idea what they mean? The numbers are going up, but are they in proportion to the growth in population? Are more cases of these diseases being reported because of better testing techniques, or are the diseases more prevalent? The fact is, without context, pure statistics mean nothing.

This growing trend of reporting only part of the relevant information is getting out of hand. For example, several years ago a high school student reported the dangers of the chemical substance known as dihydrogen monoxide. This substance, found in most cancerous tumors, is very frequently found in the blood of people intoxicated with alcohol, and causes complete physical and psychological dependence for those who ingest the substance even once. After reading his report, more than 75% of his Advanced Placement Chemistry class voted to ban this dangerous substance, known to the layman as water! Every one of the above statements is true, yet this substance is necessary to all life on earth. The problems stemmed from the fact that the students were only given a few statements and statistics, all taken completely out of context.

The point of this article is that one should be aware of what is and is not being said. When a new fact or number is encountered, one should try to think about relevant information before forming an opinion with only partial truths. Always remember that the author is trying to convince you of his or her own viewpoint, and will leave out information that is contrary to that viewpoint. Rethink those statistics from the beginning of the year about the safety of skiing. While it is true that only 32 people die annually from skiing, while 897 die from lightning strikes, this statement should be thought about critically. How many people even go skiing each year versus the number of people who are in potential danger of lightning strikes? If we teenagers are to inherit the world, we had better be able to think critically, and form our own viewpoints, rather than be manipulated by another's. Forewarned is forearmed. ?

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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Kathleen said...
Dec. 27, 2008 at 1:40 pm
That is true. Without complete insight and comprehension we do not know the truth. However, as humans, I think that if we really didn't like what the statistics were showing or if we were interested, we would research that ourselves. We are otherwise content with the information.
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