Statistics for the Social Sciences by Miriam Barr

I had this idea I could join the system
and change it from the inside

but you can’t join the system
and not join the system

You’ve got to put
your best foot forward
do not rock the boat
well rock the boat a little
but not much
don’t tip the boat
don’t ask anyone to build a new one
do not redesign the boat
definitely don’t point out
the ocean isn’t deep here at all
and hey we could walk
if we don’t mind getting our knees wet

Do not let your knees get wet

If your knees get wet keep it to yourself
we don’t talk about the wetness of the water here
we study the motion of the wave
the molecular structure, the parts
their correlation to the shore and the clouds
and the rain and the temperature
we do not talk about the feel of it
there are names for speaking of the feel of it

I am full of bias in a boat
of balanced, nodding quiet
swallowing my reactions back like stones

Feelings are things we study
not things we have out in the open
we are individuals
our perspectives are invalid
your single-n sample study lacks
see that’s just your opinion there
it only counts
when a majority agrees with you

In statistics, one is insignificant
one has no power
one is an outlier
outliers get trimmed off
we are afraid of being outliers
so we become swallows instead

Billions of silent swallows
billowing out across the sky
and our feet, our knees
are perfectly dry.


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Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.


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