First up, breast cancer:
The companies that make the nearly $175,000 machines, the doctors who felt obligated to use the machines, and the women whose mammograms were interpreted by the computers should not be surprised that the CADs (computer-assisted detection) failed to screen any better than the human physicians. Instead, just as I’ve been writing and others have been saying, 20% more women were subjected to heightened anxiety over the possibility that they had breast cancer because the CADs indicated that they needed invasive follow-up biopsies, which, in only one out of 2000 cases, turned out to be a cancer. (How many of those women do you suppose were also offered anti-depressants and all those other drugs you see advertised to make women smile again? Yes, that’s snarky of me but it’s exactly what I think about when I hear about these studies.)
Elementary schoolchildren who utilized educational software in the classroom for math and reading didn’t demonstrate any greater mastery or deficit, according to a study just released by the US Department of Education’s National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (NCEE) (one of the four centers of the Institute of Education Sciences, which, by the way, for you smaller government-loving conservatives, was created by President Bush in 2002; it’s budget request for FY 2008 is $594.3 million, or, as Matt Dole prefers, $594,300,000 for a Bush-created, Bush-maintained entity, out of a total USDOE budget request of $56 billion – a decrease from 2007, of course, because states just love unfunded education mandates; the study we’re reading about today probably falls within the $282 million for Statistics and for Research, Development and Dissemination).
Now, I’m an education and statistics and research lover, so none of this bothers me as a general proposition. What I really need to know and analyze, however, is which if any Bush favorites get and got the money for providing the software – that’s what intrigues me.
The part I love the most: No Child Left Behind mandated that the study take place, but none of the news articles indicate how the study was financed, how much money it received and who got the money (let alone provide any of the info or links I provided above).
After glancing through the report to Congress made by the governmental entity charged with the study, I’ve sent in a request for financial figures related to the cost of the study (because I’ll allow that the info might be in there but I couldn’t find it).
I’m not questioning the value of the government entity that guides and reports on this and other studies. From a ten minute browse of the website, the people and the place seem credentialed and serious. Anyone with more info, please contribute.
However, I have to put these two studies into the growing pile of studies I can recall that tell us things we alread know or could have expected to be the case: just like the breast cancer detection via computers study, when it comes to humans, humans do it better.
When it comes to products, I’ll allow that computers may have the John Henry vs. the steam engine edge. But when we’re talking people, people do people better.