How to lie cheat and steal with numbers in English
My new class

I teach on Tuesday over at the University of Tokyo. I make a new course each semester to keep myself sharp and draw in some students again. The students visit the first week and choose. I get a great mix of students with high proficiency in English and others from abroad (Todai has more foreign students than most universities).

Dad is reading a new book called “The American Way of Eating” about the diet in America and how industry has influenced it. It got me to thinking about the progression of my courses over the last few years. Here is what I wrote him.

The American Way of Eating looks really good. I teach a class I call “Hamburgers and Rhetoric” where we look at books, movies (documentaries) and software games, and how they persuade people. The common link is McDonald’s. Se we start with Fast Food Nation (the book, I assign the movie for extra credit), then go on to Super Size Me (Morgan Spurlock eats only McDonald’s for 30 days), then we do the McDonald’s Game (at Molleindustria home of many Serious Games).

That morphed into another course about “Documentaries and the Truth” Where we started with Super Size Me, then went onto Food Inc., and the Cove, then Temple Grandin. If they made a documentary about The American Way of Eating, it would be in this class too. I would recommend Food Inc as a precursor of TAWOE.
That has morphed into “How to Lie Cheat and Steal with Numbers in English”. In HTLCASWNIE, we look at numeracy, or numerical literacy and critical thinking. We look at big and small numbers, then how to talk about numbers, then we look at different ways to represent numbers (infographics and visualizations), and then finally, how to use statistics and numbers to change people’s perceptions.
These classes are for my University of Tokyo students, the ones who go on to rule the nation. I think it will be a really good course.
Now that I have the skill set we are going to target in the class, I am working on collecting examples from media. The topics are falling into a list of “what not to talk about at a party”. Sex, drugs, rock-and-roll, politics, religion, money, race, and education. Will keep you updated on how it goes.