One of the benefits of writing a dissertation is learning to avoid the trap called “correlation does not imply causation.” I know many of my fellow grad students that, like me, got nailed by their committee by committing this error! The rebukes were swift and intense, so much so that we all learned our lesson and utilized critical thinking before drawing another conclusion!
One example often used is the admonition not to buy a red sports car because police ticket red sports cars more than any other vehicle. While this is true, it is not the color of the car; it’s the drivers. Young men tend to drive faster than any other demographic, and they also tend to prefer red cars to other to colors. It is this demographic group that garners more tickets, irrespective of the color of car they are driving!
Election time provides a plethora of folks violating this trap in trying to promote their candidate or denigrating those they do not support. The other day on Facebook, a distant Canadian relative did this. Based on her past posts, I know that she votes the Liberal party in Canada, lots of anti-Harper and pro-Trudeau memes and comments.
She posted a video of a Texas Tech University journalism major asking random students historical, current event, and cultural/entertainment questions. The historical questions were centered around the Civil War and asked when it occurred and who were the combatants; the main question about current events was, “Who is vice president of the United States?” Unfortunately, there were very few students who could answer these questions.
The cultural/entertainment questions were: “What show did Snookie appear in?” “Who is Brad Pitt married to?” “Who was Brad Pitt married to before?” Every student was able to answer these questions correctly!
The caption to her post was something like, “And we wonder why these kids are voting for Trump?” There were only two comments on her post as I caught it fairly soon after she put it on Facebook, and they both made references to the intelligence of Texans. As an aside, it’s interesting after I made a succinct comment based on what I’m writing here, not one other person chose to make a post! Unfortunately, my relative not only violated the causation/correlation rule but logical deduction to boot!
I dismissed the latter comments to simply being parochial, usually centering around the two President Bushes. Funny how we do not hear any ignoramus Texan style responses to Lloyd Benson, Ann Richards, or Wendy Davis in the political arena. I also never hear derogatory comments about the education level of Tommy Tune, Jerry Hall, Matthew McConnaughhay, Tommy Lee Jones, Jamie Fox, or Sissy Spacek, to name a few actors!
Unfortunately, this dearth of knowledge is symptomatic of the lax education standards across the country, not this university in Texas. Just look at any old Jay Walking clips when Leno was the Tonight Show host or some of the responses to Jimmy Fallon’s questions of people on the street! The same is true on the other coast; I saw an article showing a similar lack of historical and current events knowledge in Ivy League schools juxtaposed against 100% correct answers regarding celebrities. It makes you wonder about the admission requirements for Ivy League schools.
But worse, my relative doesn’t even check out the demographics on who is supporting Trump; it is older white males without a college education! She is actually maligning Bernie Sanders and her liberal causes because his supporters are mostly young white college students! While this might be a bit harsh, my Canadian relative might have heeded the United States Civil War president’s admonition, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”