Journalism by the Numbers (a pedagogical play in one scene) #math

(Lights up on a college journalism classroom. The professor enters, surveys the room.)

Professor: Math!
Students: (Shocked reaction.)
Professor: Math!!
Students: (Scattered cries of “No!”)
Professor: MATH!!!
Students: NO!!!
 
(Blackout.)
 
(40 minutes later.)
 
Professor: So, at the very least when you encounter numbers in your reporting, contact sources who can help you interpret those numbers critically. Seek out a variety of credible views on the provenance and significance of the numbers your sources provide; don’t automatically publish figures you find on .org websites or on signs that protestors carry. Many of us chose the humanities because of our values. If you let your discomfort with math excuse you from the obligation of informing yourself, that means that important decisions will be continue to be made for you, by whoever is comfortable with numbers, and they’ll design our software and our tools and our society according to their values, and they’ll give us more crappy things like the MS-Word grammar checker. So… There will be a quiz on percentages and averages Monday. You can use your phones and look things up online. And now… how about you say it? Class, go ahead.
Students (variously): Er… um… math?
Professor: Again!
Students (reluctantly): Math.
Professor: Wonderful! Again!!
Students (playing along, but not enough to justify an actual exclamation point): Math.
(Curtain.)
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