I had an economics professor in grad school who told us that every civilized household should use the most recent edition of the “Statistical Abstract of the United States” as a coffee table book.
For one hundred thirty years, the “Stat Ab”
has been was an annual federal publication packed to the rafters with data: page after page of data tables on every imaginable aspect of our lives—demographics, jobs, transportation, health, agriculture, the military, and more.
When our class laughed at the idea of replacing a book of Ansel Adams’s photos with one that included “Table 925. Energy Supply and Disposition by Type of Fuel,” our professor excitedly (and without irony) replied, “But there’s just so much you can learn from these numbers!”
The same could be said of the “2015 Condition of Education” recently published by the National Center for Education Statistics. For years, Congress has required this federal agency to annually produce a report on the state of U.S. schools. If it were up to me, it would be mandatory professional development for everyone working in K–12 to spend ninety minutes with this report.
We should all stay up to speed with the...