Your Arguments Are Totally Idiotic, Which I Know Even Though I Didn't Read Your Article

Since I am not a very large blogger, and not overtly political (most of the time), I seldom have my articles end up in organized trolling campaigns.  But over the last week I had a flood of comments on this three-year-old article about teacher salaries.  This sudden interest in an old article (particularly when many others more prominent than I have written on the topic more recently) puzzled me until I saw that the Center for American Progress had come out with a study saying that, surprise, teacher salaries were way too low.

I seldom participate in comments wars on my own articles, and prefer to post updates or clarifications in the article itself for all to see.  However, this was particularly frustrating when it was clear that most commentators were coming to the site with some preconceived notion of what the article said, and did not feel the need to actually read the article before commenting.  So, we end up with numerous folks saying "what about all the overtime work", as if I totally ignored that thought and hadn't even considered it, when there was a whole section on teacher overtime in the article.  I finally lost it when I got a comment that said "I don't know where this guy gets his numbers..."  This is a total cop-out response I see in comments all the time.  It allows one to imply the numbers are shady or unsourced without having to actually provide specific criticisms of the data.  I responded:

On the Internet, underlined bits of text, often in a different color, are called “links”.  By clicking on these “links” with your cursor, you will go to other sites.  In the case of this article, the source of data are all from the BLS, a part of the Federal Department of Labor.  The “links” will take you directly to the pages where the data was taken (though since 3 years have passed the links may lead you to newer versions of the data). 

There were also a number of comments along the lines of "well, I don't make anything like those numbers" to which I was forced to respond

In a distribution of millions of values, all the values in the distribution don’t normally match the average.  Some will be above and some will be below.  Though an average is different from a median, it is fairly safe to assume that something like half** of teachers make less than the numbers in the article and half make above those numbers.  As discussed in my second update, if you are in a rural area, you are more likely to be in the “below” category.  If you are in an urban area, you are more likely to be above

** with salary data, since the floor is typically closer to the average than the ceiling (salaries can't go below zero but can in theory go infinitely high), the median is generally below the mean, so likely more than half of teachers make less than the average.

  • Onlooker from Troy

    Pretty typical discourse these days, as you know. A combination of people not really being interested in the truth, just advancing their own interests/agenda; and a lack of critical thinking skills. The two dominant institutions in our society, religion & government, have a vested interest in people not thinking critically and rationally (nor being able to, of course) .

    Love that second comment; that you have to point out the basics of statistics to a teacher is quite telling.

  • http://devilish-details.blogspot.com/ mesaeconoguy

    This is how the Center for American Regression works.

    And these are the best and brightest from your public sector unions, stealing taxpayer money with vacuous impunity.

  • Earl Wertheimer

    Yes, but MY salary is below the average. I think all teacher salaries should be above the average...

    If I was writing Labour Law, I would create the following rule: Anyone who claims an increase in order to get parity with another group, should instead result in the other group getting a deduction. This way they get parity and we save money.

  • W. C. Taqiyya

    The scramble for diminishing resources will continue to intensify in the coming months and years. Might as well get used to the screech of propaganda from the government unions.

  • sjutte350

    Warren;

    Join the club, man. I
    did a post about a TV show that was speculating that Greenland Sharks were
    working their way up the River Ness into Loch Ness, and were subsequently being
    spotted and confused with the Loch Ness monster. It was the entire premise of the show – that Greenland
    Sharks were entering and living in swift water rivers and freshwater lakes, and
    being mistaken for Nessie.

    Being something of an amateur biologist, I wrote a long
    article essentially debunking all of the “evidence” that the show presented to
    support their claim. It wasn’t even that
    hard – the suppositions these people made, and the logical leaps the took to
    get to that conclusion were hilarious, if they weren’t so sad.

    I wrote that article over a year ago, and I’m still getting
    people that come on to respond every time that show re-airs, to the point to
    where I’m one of the top results when you google Loch Ness and Greenland
    Shark.

    Most of the responses were essentially proof that the person
    responding hadn’t read the article. I
    got responses like “but they’ve found Greenland Sharks in rivers! Go to this website and see!” when I had already responded to that point in
    the article (the “river” in question was actually the St. Lawrence Seaway, a
    2,000 foot deep, very much saltwater fjord at the mouth of the St. Lawrence
    River – prime Greenland Shark habitat, and not even remotely comparable to the river
    Ness).

    In response to my sourced, backed up statements that
    Greenland Sharks could not survive in fresh water, despite SOME sharks having
    that ability, I kept getting people who would respond with the example of the
    Bull Shark, a shark capable of living in fresh water, and using that as an
    example of why the Greenland Shark could live in fresh water. Again, proof that they hadn’t read my article
    at all.

    I even had one guy, frustrated with the fact that I’d gone
    around with him a couple of times and always had a fact-based answer to his
    speculation, end up shouting at me “WELL I GUESS YOU MUST BE GOD THEN AND KNOW
    THE ANSWER TO EVERYTHING!”

    The state of logical debate is very sad, indeed.