I am sick and tired of hearing about the drug problems at Oak Park and River Forest High School. Am I saying that they are nonexistent? No. I am a senior at the high school and I personally know many kids who have and are using drugs. Of the many points I’d like to address, I’m only going to address the survey that many seem to point out as being “hard evidence” that every teen is drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana every weekend.
A few weeks ago, the seniors and sophomores had to take the Illinois Youth Survey, which is probably the most inadequate survey ever written. Statistically speaking, it is an abomination of a survey, with findings that are utterly useless. The survey contains pervasive amounts of wording and response bias. Each question is written in a way that assumes that every teenager in the world is smoking marijuana, drinking large amounts of alcohol, abusing their girlfriend and shooting up heroin. And what prevents a kid from lying on this survey? One could lie either way, claiming that he or she does not participate in illicit activity, or trying to be funny by claiming that, in fact, he or she does snort cocaine on a regular basis.
The survey also contains no randomization, a basic and necessary component to all surveys; there is no way to tell if the sample is truly representative of the population! This survey also contains several major lurking variables that arise due to its strong wording bias. Some of the questions ask about when students had most recently used alcohol in any setting during the past month, whether it was at church or a part of a religious holiday. We took the survey the week after Passover and Easter; the wine at church is wine. Such a large lurking variable could account for the high amounts of students who had answered that yes, in fact, they had used alcohol within the past month, or week at that.
The survey also claims to compare those who are seniors now to when they were sophomores, based on the surveys we supposedly took our sophomore year. I remember taking a survey as a sophomore, but it had nothing to do with drug use. Only some rooms of sophomores took the Illinois Youth Survey, while others, like me, took some other survey. This survey fails to be either a retrospective or a prospective study – the only kinds of studies.
Finally, digressing a bit, the malicious manner in which this “survey” is written is insulting, and I am personally offended by its gross amounts of conviction.
Paul Deziel is a graduating senior at OPRF and an AP statistics student.