Thursday, May 13, 2010

Facts and Figures- Bah Humbug!

In this world of information overload, it's getting harder and harder to separate the factual wheat from the chaff, as the shear bulk of news stories, published data, opinion polls and research papers, makes it harder and harder to form a reasoned opinion about any issue, considering that most of the information is highly suspect.

Whether the issue be global warming, weapons of mass destruction or the state of the French language in Quebec, we have seen that facts and figures can be anything but incontrovertible and are more likely than not, a product of manipulation meant to advance the position of the author. Just as Photoshop has destroyed  our trust in the integrity of photos, the famous 'Hockey Stick' graph" of global warming fame, has forever tainted our perception of data reliability.

In Quebec, nothing typifies this modern phenomenon more than the information war currently being waged in the debate over language between the French and English.

This week was particularly interesting because of several publish reports that have people on both sides of the debate scratching their heads.

First we had a report in the Montreal Gazette-, Anglo salary fallacy persists: poll that declared that the the average salary for francophone Quebeckers has surpassed that of Anglophones by some $2,000.
"Yet it’s a fact: If your mother tongue is French, you earn $2,000 a year more, on average, than an English-speaking Quebecer."
Not so fast.... It's no fact at all. All this determined in an opinion poll? I remain sceptical and would like to hear about their methodology. After all, would you divulge your salary over the phone to someone who was conducting a survey?  Not likely. Why not go to the source for real information-Statistics Canada. The article went on to present the following comical assertion as fact which confirmed to me, that the whole presentation was junk journalism;
"The only place in the province where Anglophones earn more than French-speakers is Hampstead, where the average annual wage for English-speakers is $45,428, compared to $40,892 for Francophones."
I usually value Ms. Gagnon's opinion, but she couldn't be more wrong about Anglos attending university. The graduation rate for Anglos attending university is  31% and 35% for Allophones as compared to 22% for Francophones.  Anglos and Allos out graduate Francophones by 50%. Huh!
You can download a report prepared by the Institut de la statistique du Québec entitled Données sociodémographiques en bref  that confirms this fact on page 3.
So is everything we read suspect???
A study by New Brunswick demographer Eric Forgues, of the Canadian Institute for Research on Linguistic Minorities in New Brunswick, shows that there is a net migration out of Quebec because there are more Anglophones and Allophones leaving Quebec than are those arriving. LINK

An article in LE DEVOIR comes to the exact opposite conclusion.  
"The exodus of English speakers outside of Quebec is well and truly over.  There is now a dramatic change in the situation. Between 2001 and 2006, the anglophone population of Montreal has experienced unprecedented growth in the history of Quebec."   LINK
Perhaps the lesson to be learned is that 'facts' presented are no facts at all. How many of us, with our busy schedules, take the time to analyze what is being presented.

Next time someone on the opposite end of an argument quotes you supporting facts and figures, don't be shy to call her or him out.

When sovereignists and nationalists start reaming off statistics and facts, chances are that those 'facts' and 'figures' are  nothing but a self-serving crock of BS!

No comments:

Post a Comment