Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Schoolkids feedback to government: “we hate Middle Eastern food”

Posted by Dave Bath on 2008-02-10

I’ve mentioned how pathetic Oz political bloggers are at talking to government, even when the consultation is about new electronic means to talk to government.  I hope students at the 30% of schools registered for CensusAtSchool (registrations close in July) will be better.

If there is a decent response, it will provide a wealth of information for those claiming to speak on behalf of kids.  (I’m a believer that the voting age should be lowered to the age of consent and the age you can be prosecuted as an adult – whichever is lower).

As with the previous questionnaire, students answer questions on a range of topics covering the environment, use of technology, leisure activities and eating habits. The popular reaction time games are still there, as is the concentration game.

The student opinion questions have been expanded to cover a range of social and environmental issues such as climate change, water use, bullying and more depth into use of technology. Entirely new additions include questions on financial literacy, health and well-being, and hours of sleep. How many students are engaged in employment? How many hours do students spend on social networking sites? How many hours of sleep are Australian students getting? What actions are students taking to conserve water? How frequently are students going overseas?

Here are the last sets of results based on the 2006 questionnaire, but it’s not just for social policy wonks, the aim is to get students understanding something about statistics as well by analyzing it themselves (see a teacher’s guide here).

As a sample (with a little bit of analysis, including the rankings), here are the favorite snack foods for girls and boys:

The first few choices are pretty much the same, then girls get more sensible with rice, noodles, fruit and salads.

And it doesn’t matter what sex you are talking about, schoolkids hate Middle Eastern food.

Food Girls Girls % Girls Rank Boys Boys % Boys Rank
No preference 1885 2.07% 12 3080 1.92% 12
Fish and Chips 11987 13.15% 3 23220 14.50% 3
Fried Chicken and Chips/Fries 8546 9.37% 4 17208 10.75% 4
Fruit/Fruit Salad 6619 7.26% 6 6311 3.94% 9
Hamburgers and Chips/Fries 12153 13.33% 2 24971 15.60% 2
Middle Eastern Food 2759 3.03% 11 5278 3.30% 11
Pies/Pasties 6038 6.62% 8 13901 8.68% 5
Pizza 15532 17.04% 1 30231 18.88% 1
Rice/ Noodle Dishes 7640 8.38% 5 10257 6.41% 7
Rolls/Sandwiches 5907 6.48% 10 8485 5.30% 8
Salads 6128 6.72% 7 6085 3.80% 10
Other 5971 6.55% 9 11089 6.93% 6
Total 91165 160116

5 Responses to “Schoolkids feedback to government: “we hate Middle Eastern food””

  1. lauredhel said

    Who wrote the questionnaires? The kids probably didn’t mark “Middle Eastern Food” down as favourites because they had no idea what it was. Children (well, and most adults) tend to prefer to think in concrete terms. All of the other options are the names of actual foods. No other food is denoted by its ethnic or geographic origins.

    Substitute “doner kebab/gyro” or “bread and dip”, and you might get quite different responses.

    If it was the children who wrote the questions, it could just be one of those random things. If inexperience isn’t an excuse, however, I can’t help but wonder about someone fishing for a headline.

  2. Dave Bath said

    Got one of my points in one! Glad to see someone on the ball. That’s one of the good things that can come from kids participating.

    Headline-seeking through dodgy questionnaires and analysis is not limited to bloggers!

    Looking for weaknesses in studies (it’s worth comparing the number of responses to the question compared to the number of respondents), and the weaknesses in reports of studies, is a critical things that needs to be taught to kids, lest they become victims of …..

    Journalists, bloggers, …. and indeed governments.

    I refer you to the travesties of Kevin Andrew and those preparing reports to submissions to the Citizenship Testing bill and previous departmental inquiries. I’ve seen some doozies:

    Citizenship testing, particularly the spin that most people were in favor of the bill.

    The Victorian Immigrant and Refugee Women’s Coalition pointed to the 70% of 148 published submissions for the 2006 discussions on the issue were against the idea behind the bill. I note this is not highlighted indicated on the site, and further that the summary report from that consultative process gives a lot more emphasis on the values Australians should have, but little to the concept of a test (see p4), which is opposed by 68% of organizations (14% “unclear” and 18% in favor). Unfortunately, 1500 odd individual submissions aren’t public because of the need to anonymize them, or the department is having trouble contacting people to seek consent to publish. (I wonder how hard they tried).

    My review of the NT land-grab "inquiry" points out another travesty:

    Despite most submissions saying the package should have followed at least some the recommendations of Andersen and wild, and more urging rejection of at least most aspects of the legislation than supporting it, the Key Issues section (of the final report) states:

    Virtually without exception, witnesses and submitters welcomed the intent of the Australian Government’s intervention package and some were strongly supportive of the package itself.

    In fact, Andrew Bartlett’s dissenting report went further, saying the majority report (including ALP support), "verballed" submitters. Yet the government still couched things in statistical language!

    Spinning an easily-unspun headline about kids hating Middle Eastern food is one thing, spinning contributions to senate inquiries for political gain is another!

    I wonder how many others would have got the point?

  3. Dave Bath said

    L: I wondered why you hadn’t looked at the 2006 questionnaire before asking about the design, then I realized my link was broken. Fixed now.

    I’ll also point to the student resources section, where the first thing our chief statistician says to kids about the nature of statistics is

    Statistical thinking will one day be as necessary for efficient citizenship as the ability to read and write. – H. G. Wells

  4. zombinol said

    Spot on lauredhel, it was the first thing that struck me as smelly, then I wondered would kids have put spaghetti in with noodles? because that could have the potential effect of skewing the perception of the Asian numbers.

    I find the skewing of the options like this disturbing propaganda.

    Is there a public copy of the questionnaires?

  5. Dave Bath said

    Yep, here is the 2006 questionnaire that provided the data I abused, a la Andrew Bolt.

    I cannot give you the 2008 questionnaire (which, being the same across a number of nations, will have been prepared by decent propeller-heads), because you have to be at a registered school and know your student id number. Impersonate a minor across the internet? Not me! Perhaps if any teachers read this, they could cut and paste something?

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