Friday, November 09, 2007

More polymath

I'm more than a bit behind, so this is from Tuesday's broadcast from the Minister for Correct Thought (my emphasis):

In non-religious primaries 20% of children have free school meals, but only 11% in Church of England schools, 15% in Roman Catholic schools and 3% in Jewish schools. But look at the damaging reverse in Muslim secondary schools: 34% are on free school meals, compared with 15% nationally, dangerously segregating Muslim children by class as well as by race and religion. Geography anyway segregates them, but faith schools make it 10 times worse.

Okay. Statistics time. Put your hand up if you are having difficulty following me. I will, for the purposes of this demonstration, accept her statistics.

Now, first we have an incorrect comparator (pace endless comparisons of male full time and female part time wages) - %age of children in some denominational primary schools versus different secondary schools. Hmm. We may already be on dangerous assumptions territory here.

Then, okay, we have children in Muslim secondary schools 2.3 times more likely to be on free school meals. Cause, or effect? Are poor Muslim parents more likely to think that a madrassa-style education in 7th Century Arab lifestyle choices good for their childrens' futures than their more successful co-religionists? I don't know. Neither does she.

10 times worse? Now how did she calculate this? I have tried to get the stats but was not willing to stump up $15 for access to possibly relevant papers. Is she suggesting that Muslim geographical segregation is of the order of 3.4% (or 1.9% - using the difference between her Muslim figure and her national figure)? I don't know. Neither, I strongly suspect, does she.

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