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November 28, 2012

1, 2, 3, 4, 5…Numbers Do Not Always Count

Lately in class and conversation numbers have been coming up a lot. In my comparative politics class we were comparing countries based on GDP. I argued with my professor (something you can do in college), saying that we should not be comparing Kenya’s GDP to America’s because the lifestyle is so different. I argued that while Kenya’s numbers may seem much smaller than America’s, we’re not using the same scale. GDP is considered a way to figure out a country’s standard of living, but it is using a benchmark that is created by the most developed economies. Money has different values around the world and people have different values around the world; I don’t think it is fair to judge a place by this one metric.

In my management class we had a discussion on motives and why people do the things they do. It was extremely interesting, but we came to a conclusion that people do things for an income. People look so much into a number amount that they might give up their dreams or change their dreams so that the number on their paycheck is higher. This conversation also led us to talking about GPA, a number that you’re probably stressing out about. But why? There is so much stress on a number. Can you really create your personal value based on a few digits? It seems absurd, but when applying to college, grad school, etc., it seems so important.

In my international development class, we recently talked about ethnography, a way to study a culture using more qualitative data than quantitative because numbers don’t always show accuracy. In my class, The American Presidency, numbers came up a lot when talking about campaign spending and getting to 270 votes. An election is basically a manipulation of numbers so that one candidate gets just enough votes to win a state and then each state’s electoral votes get put together to tell us who will be the next president. But we all know that the electoral college is extremely outdated….see why here!

Then there’s age. When you’re younger you round up, when you’re older, you round down. There is such an emphasis on age in this country that I could write an entire blog entry on just that. I just read an article in the New York Times about how schools are just like industries. What makes us think that age should determine when we start school and what grade we are in school. People are good at different things at different ages. Then there are things like driving – some people could be competent drivers at 14, while others maybe not until 20. What is it about 16 years old that says that all of a sudden you should be able to drive?

And then there’s the most important numbers that you will ever see in high school…Your SAT scores, possibly the deciding factor of where you will end up for college. And to think that one five-hour test on a Saturday morning will determine your future. Now, the amazing thing about Clark is that we are SAT OPTIONAL! What’s that, you might ask? Only the best thing that a college can offer. It means that you can choose to submit your scores if you feel like it’s a good representation of you as a person. If you don’t think they are, don’t send them. It’s as nice as that!

See, we know that numbers aren’t everything. GDP, income, age, grades, and SAT scores can seem so important, but remember that you are a person, not a number. Clark knows that and that’s why I’m here. Many times people get caught up in thinking that numbers are somehow the only concrete way to measure something. Many times, they are not.

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