Thursday, December 27, 2007

Yet Another Teen Survey

Shark-fu, over at Angry Black Bitch has posted And I'll bet there is a study that shows studies are full of shit...., where she says
According to the survey conducted by Junior Achievement Worldwide, nearly 40 percent of teens believe that lying, cheating or violence are necessary to succeed. 23 percent who said violence toward another person is acceptable on some level. Overall, the number of teens who said they’d fuck with the rules doubled since 2003.

Okay, but mayhap someone should ask some not so obvious questions about this survey data.

Factoring in this new data, how can we trust that the teens are telling the truth when they say they don’t value telling the truth?

Or could it be that these teens are actually being more honest that the 2003 teens? If so, wouldn’t that indicate a decrease in survey dishonesty and wouldn’t that sort of contradict the new survey results?
And what it reminded me of was my junior and senior year in high school.* I was in a gifted program. Twenty eight of us took our requirements and many of our electives together. In our senior year, we had mornings at the local community college and afternoons at the high school. And part of being involved in what would now be called a pilot project was that we spent a lot of time under the microscope. Our parents were interviewed.** And we took psychological test after psychological test. And one test, during our senior year, when we were missing regular classes in two schools for what we could see little use for,*** a group of us decided to answer at random. We couldn't get out of the test, so we did the next best thing. After all these years I can't remember whether we got in trouble for it, but I imagine that we did.

But, the point is, these days teens are surveyed and tested all over the place. Not just the ones in a particular group, but all of them. And most especially they are asked about risk-taking behavior and moral behavior. Do the testers, I wonder, ever think about whether the kids are giving them true answers as opposed to answers to please and/or answers to shock?

I've said it before and I'll say it again. If you really want to know what teens think and believe, you aren't going to get it from a forced-choice survey.**** You need to actually talk to them and really listen. You need to get examples. And you need to observe how they really act.*****

* Remembering that I graduated in 1960.
** My mother well remembers the hours of interviews that covered everything from my toilet training to checking out the books on the family bookshelves.
*** Surely all the other tests had covered everything important, hadn't they?
**** Just this week I went to the HGTV website and took their test for determining my interior decoration style. It was forced-choice, in that I was to choose which of four pictures I liked best in a number of categories. Except there wasn't anything in any of those pictures that I would really want in my home. Nothing awful, but none of it my style. So, if I can't find something that represents my answer about furniture, how will I find it about lying?
***** Maybe it's my unusual training first as an anthropology minor and then in my Montessori masters program, but it seems so obvious to me that if you want to know what anyone really believes, you observe what they do.

Graphic by INdiana Systemic Thinking


Tabor said...

I think you are so right, Maya. It is not about fitting square pegs in square holes but fitting the puzzle piece in the correct spot. Also, what a person believes about themselves can be very different from what they actually do in the situation.

jan said...

I taught for a while at a continuation high school where the students were constantly being subjected to tests and surveys of all kinds so that the "experts" would know how to deal with them better. The kids had a system of answering the questions as fast as they could without reading any of them.

Laura said...

I remember partaking (in the 80's) of surveys on sex, alcohol, and drug usage when I was in high school. I also remember most participants purposely skewing the results. I did mainly because it was an affront on some level for these people to try and "get us" based upon answers on a sheet of paper. I see it hasn't changed much.