I got another call trying to sell me a dubious "protection service" for my credit card. This one was from 'Jose Roberts,' and involved protection against identity theft: for a mere $7.99 a month they would monitor my credit card activity for anything suspicious. Great.
As soon as Jose Roberts started "confirming my address" I told him I was not interested. He said, "Are you aware, Mr. Anymore, that over ten million Americans each year are victims of identity fraud, and that over 85% of them get arrested for crimes they did not commit?"
Those are frightening statistics indeed. They frighten me because if these statistics are part of Jose Roberts's script, it means that people must find them plausible. And that's frightening. I suppose ten million victims of identity theft is slightly plausible, if you define identity theft broadly enough to include any identity-related fraud. But the amazing one is that "85% of them get arrested for crimes they did not commit." So eight and a half million Americans are falsely arrested each year because of identity theft? Who could believe that? Now, I never complain about split infinitives, and I'm fine with sentences that end in prepositions and oblique subject pronouns in coordinated noun phrases. Hell, I don't even care about double negatives in speech. In short, I'm not a language curmudgeon, but that's because I know that all these supposed examples of ignorance are actually natural parts of the language. But having such a poor sense of proportion that you could believe that three percent of Americans are falsely arrested annually because of identity theft - that is genuine ignorance.
If I were involved in planning math curricula for grade schools, I would emphasize developing a sense of proportion and scale. That's way more useful than long division. Of course, I have no idea how to actually teach this skill, or if it can be taught, but hey, I'm being cranky here, and one of the perks of being a crank is that you can suggest simple solutions to complicated problems. Like this:
Poverty? More money!
Hunger? More food!
War? Stop fighting?
Cancer? A pill that gets rid of the cancer. Or maybe an ointment.
Things'd be a lot simpler of I were in charge.