Separating evidence and interpretation

This is for both speech and journalism students. People sometimes have trouble separating evidence from the conclusions drawn from that evidence. Here’s a great example. Recently a study in Wisconsin, which has had a school voucher program in place for a while, found “parity” between representative samples of both public school and voucher-funded private school students. (That means they performed about the same grade-wise.) I don’t know how long the link will remain live, but right now you can read a newspaper story at the Journal-Sentinel.

Even though the researchers have repeatedly warned of the dangers of basing too much on the results of one study, media and politicians seem to have jumped on the results, with all claiming it supports whatever their position is.

Opponents of school vouchers are saying, in essence, “See! See! Private schools aren’t doing it any better. So we can finally just drop all this voucher nonsense and keep doing things the way we were.”

Proponents of school vouchers are saying, in essence, “Let me get this straight. The private schools are achieving the same results as public schools while costing a third less, a savings of several thousand dollars per student. How is it again that this proves vouchers are a bad idea? I don’t get it.”

This alone should help students understand why persuasion must go well beyond simply piling up facts.

Share this, please!