The Answers: Question 5

5. This notorious Ithaca Times cover illustration appears to show tuition at Cornell University skyrocketing while quality plummets. Graphs of the source data are shown below it. Describe at least three deceptive practices that make this cover perhaps “the most misleading graph ever published.” [6]

Any critique of the Ithaca Times cover should definitely mention that it compares tuition numbers going up (a bad thing) with ranking numbers going down (a good thing), shows the graphs without axes and aligns two plots that cover drastically different time spans.

When I proctored the exam with this question, one student was so appalled when he first saw the graph that he blurted out “oh my god.” I gave him a bonus mark. That was the best evidence I could have hoped for that he understood the situation.


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