Lessons About Data

The pandemic has raised several issues with education at all levels. One of the most interesting to me has been the seeming disconnect between being “data-driven” and decisions related to keeping schools open.

Clearly the decision to keep a school open for in-person instruction rather than relying on remote instruction is complicated. There are many factors to consider when keeping schools open, but there seems to be a real disconnect between what “the data” tell us about how the virus is transmitted and the social conditions that are associated with its spread. Schools seem to exactly what we should not be doing if we hope to slow the current wave.

This same conclusion appears to have motivated a recent tweet by @TheWeirdTeacher.

The lesson we can take from this is that “data-driven” leaders claim they are being objective. Their rationale is something akin to “Look, I am not the one who is recommending a course of action, it is ‘in the data.’”

It seems only reasonable to conclude that decisions are being made by something other than objective analysis of data is making the decision to keep schools open. We are hearing pleas from public health experts to avoid gathering in groups, yet our schools are open.

I am not a fan of those who claim to be “data-driven” as it is disingenuous. (This is a theme that has been developed in this blog since its beginning.) I am hoping that we can learn the lesson that all data collection and interpretation and the decisions made based on data are political, which means they are subjective and made to benefit those who control the system.