## 2015-12-23

### We must all be better than average

We have seen UK politicians afflicted with this stupidity too, but today it seems that Clinton stated, categorically "I wouldn't keep any school open that wasn't doing a better than average job".

Now, I should not have to explain this, but just in case I do...

"average" is the "middle". There are lots of technical ways one can work out "average" and I won't go in to any detail, but basically, in generally terms, if you have a set of something, like "schools", always, half will be "below average" and half will be "above average".

And what is worse, if you closed the half of all schools that were "below average", then the average would change, and would now mean that half the of the schools you have left are "above average" and half would be "below average".

You keep doing this until the best school in the country is the only one left open, and it is "only average".

I say this with some dismay - why are people so thick?, but I have to remember that OFCOM defined in the code of practice that 10% of all broadband lines are "faulty" as they are in the "bottom 10th percentile", and again, if removed or fixed, then the average and 10th percentile moves up. It is the same stupidity right here in the UK in official OFCOM code of practice.

1. You are not quite correct in saying that 'if you have a set of something, always, half will be "below average" and half will be "above average"'. What you are referring to is the median. The "average" is the arithmetic average, and it is perfectly possible for the members of a set to be distributed unevenly around the average, especially if the there are members with extreme values.

For example, if most schools (say 90%) score between 95 to 105 on some scale of measuring quality, none higher, and then there are some bad apples (10%) at 50, the average score will be 95, and only 10% of schools will be below it. Of course, this is an extreme example, but it shows that average does not equal one half below and one half above.

1. An "average" can be the "mean" or "median" and I a fully aware of the difference. Almost all people have above average number of legs. This is why is said in general terms and used the wording that I did!

2. Also, in your example, close those bad apples and you we moving the average and will soon find half the schools are below average.

2. Clinton is behind the times. OFSTED already got rid of 'Satisfactory' and replaced it with 'Requires Improvement' for those schools not assessed as above average 'Good'.

3. I've had many a good pub debate on the subject of "Half the population of this country has below average intelligence"

4. In your example of Ofcom declaring the bottom 10% of lines as faulty, surely that is more a way of trying to force up the speed of offerings in the UK? It seems like a good way of pushing improvement that BT Openreach might otherwise not be concerned about (like rural communities).

Looking at it from a "this is unchangable" point of view does make it seem silly but unlike Ofsteds approach to schools, it actually could be a reasonable way of doing things to push innovation and improvement.
Disclaimer: I have no idea if this is actually a viable way of improving our infrastructure or if they even enforce it in a sane way.

1. Not really, ultimately for a service like ADSL or VDSL there is a speed a line can get based on line length and characteristics. Yes, when there is a fault one of the possible symptoms is a lower sync speed, which will be improved by fixing the fault. Declaring the lowest 10% speed to be faulty only works if that is true, otherwise it means lines that are faulty and slower than they could be are not considered faulty, or lines that are perfectly fine and getting the best speed they could are considered faulty, neither of which actually helps matters. Also, granulation of speed sync and caps on lines mean you can easily find that the 10th percentile of a group is all of the lines, as it is the top/capped speed, meaning by OFCOM rules all lines are faulty because "at or below" is used. Fixing faulty lines is good, trying to always "fix" the lowest speed 10% is not sensible, and ultimately not possible either once the faults are in fact fixed. It logically encourages ISPs to have slow lines that are good quality and not reported as a problem to bring the 10th percentile down and mask real faults that they would have to otherwise fix!

5. Only a few years ago I heard a UK Labour MP on an election campaign stating how terrible it is in this day an age that nearly half his constituents earned a below average wage and that this was clearly a Conservative ploy to keep the working man down. And this man wanted people to vote for him? Being cynical maybe he knew what he was saying was silly but was relying on the stupidity of his constituents?

6. Cecil writes : Blah blah … something about getting rid of below average politicians … errm

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