a Someone should care, maybe not you....: Foolishness .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Someone should care, maybe not you....

My thoughts on many things including the army, war, politics, the military corrections system, chaos, life, books, movies, and why there is no blue food. Feel free to comment on what I say. Feedback is nice.

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40+ year old former teacher, linguist, interrogator, soldier, and lastly convict. We all do stupid things every once and awhile. I am an economic conservative and a firm believer in civil rights. Starting a new life now and frankly not sure what I am going to be doing.

16 April 2006

Foolishness

Today I am going to talk about one of my favorite rants as a history teacher. I am sure all of you at some time in your life have heard a teacher say something like "A 30 year old man in the middle ages was considered OLD.", or, "40 back then was like 80 today."

Today I went to a website on retirement and got the following.
A look back in history reveals that Neanderthals lived but 20 years and the classic Greeks and Romans enjoyed only a brief 28 years on Earth... If you lived in medieval England, you had an average of 33 years, a figure that rose only to 37 by the late 19th century.


This is of course accurate but at the the same time it is totally misleading. Everyone did not die off at 28 in ancient Greece. And in medieval England it was not at all uncommon for people to reach the biblical measure of "three score and ten".

So where does the confusion arise? It is "Average life expectancy" AVERAGE. That means they take an estimate of everyone born and figure this on when they die. People fail to understand that word AVERAGE. (Math is an evil thing.)

If for example you took ten people and 6 of them lived to be 70 and 4 died at birth the average life of the group was 42 years. This despite the fact that the majority of them lived to be 70. So what skews the numbers so low? In a word, infant mortality. (ok, two words) When a bunch of babies die the AVERAGE goes way down. In medieval Europe if you managed to live through childhood you had a pretty good chance of making the late sixties and seventies. Just like today.

Averages are statistics and statistics lie. Afterall, the "average" high temperature in Georgia is "below 88 degrees" according to the Georgia Tourism board. Anyone who has been in South Georgia in August knows how true that isn't.

84 Comments:

Blogger Jen said...

I would like to agree with you on Math being an evil thing. It is the current thorn in my side at this moment.

Any one who would believe that Georgia's average temperature is 88 is just passing thru doing 55mph.

ps...Does this make me old or young? : )

4:09 PM  
Blogger gunngirl said...

All this calculating averages is making me dizzy. I hate math! But I see what you're saying. However, I know that in the middle ages of couse you had a higher chance of dying young. Hygiene was not the norm then.

I know the median living age was low, but we may not know how low.

Oh, and Exmi I can't stand it anymore. Why is your post a link? It's very distracting that your post is all underlined and turned into a link. Do you know how to turn it off?

8:17 PM  
Blogger exMI said...

My post is a link??? The whole post??? It isn't on my computer. In fact there isn't a link in that last post at all that I know of. What does it link to?

Jen, the 55mph reference makes you sound older....

And actually the average temp in Georgia in the summer is just below 88. But figuring an average includes the nightime temps in the mountains as well as afternoon temps at teh beach. Basicly averages are a pretty meaningless number.

6:51 AM  
Blogger Three Score and Ten or more said...

Averages are only symptomatic of the many things in our society that "Everybody knows" that just aint so. I guess that's why Snopes is so useful

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Blogger Jen said...

Well I think its more one of those I type faster than I spell sort of things...But I was forced to listen to alot of Van Halen growing up. They apparently cant drive 55.

5:05 PM  
Blogger The Home Spa Goddess said...

Exmi! This is the first time I clicked on it. It links to the U.S. Fencing association. (???)

All the text in the link is underlined and clickable. Do you know how to turn it off? You're gonna have to check the template.

5:51 PM  
Blogger Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden said...

04 19 06
hahahahah Math isn't evil, but sometimes math teachers can be! hahahahaha Good post EXMI. I find it difficult to believe that some don't understand the concept of averages, but then maybe that is a reflection of our educational system or a generation of dummies. I dunno. Good post:)

6:43 PM  
Blogger exMI said...

Very interesting. On my computer and one near me my post does not show up as a link at all. So I am not sure how to fix it. I do have a link to the US Fencing Assoc. in my link list but I am unsure as to how it is taking over the whole post on somepeople's computers. Curious......

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