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Below average

Here is an amusing little comment at the end of an otherwise depressing article about the dire state of our early childhood education:

'Deputy principal Shevaun O'Brien said 19 of 36 of the school's new entrants rated below average last year.' (Kay Blundell and Rebecca Palmer, Dominion Post, retreived from stuff.co.nz today. Link to article here.)

19 out of 36? That's about half isn't it? And what is the meaning of the word 'average' ? Approximately the mid point. So half the children were below the mid point. Hmmm. Doesn't sound all that shocking to me.

Reminds me of the George W. Bushism: "I want every American to earn above the average wage".

(This sort of comment arises because the word 'average' has come to be synonomous with 'acceptable', and 'below average' synonomous with 'not up to standard'.  An example of the drifting English language. Which is one reason why, in physics and other science, we stick to very precise words, such as 'median' and 'mean'.)

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