Teaching Risk Literacy

Via Bruce Schneier, The Times Online on teaching statistics and probability.

Pupils in every secondary school should be taught the statistical skills they need to make sensible life decisions, one of Britain’s leading mathematicians says.

A basic grasp of statistics and probability — “risk literacy” – is critical to making choices about health, money and even education, yet it is largely ignored by the national curriculum, according to the UK’s only Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk.

In modern society, more often than not, our instincts are wrong. We worry about things that we shouldn’t and we ignore things we should worry about. Too many people think they have a realistic chance of winning the lottery. We worry about what we hear or read in the news and we ignore the far more likely risks that surround us daily.

As individuals, we can all make mistakes. The problem comes when those mistakes become government policy and waste billions on misguided programs. (And I’m looking directly at the TSA now.) Mistakes not only waste money, but they provide a false sense of security that lays the groundwork for the next disaster.

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