Friday, March 19, 2010
I was called in by the head of one of my courses and subject to a serious warning. Students have complained about my population estimate class. We build infrastructure to supply future demand, so we need to know how population will behave in the future. For example, to design a water supply system, we use the water demand 20 to 30 years from now. One of the techniques is based on the logistic or sigmoidal curve, where population growth is proportional to resource availability. I like to use real situations in my exercises, so I took the Israeli Statistics Bureau publications and adked the students to apply the method to two paired populations. I paired Tel Aviv with Rahat, a Beduin village in the Negev; Petach Tikva with nearby Arab Kafr Kassem, etc. When they went to the statistical yearbooks it appeared that many Arab villages had few hundred inhabitants in 1948 or, like Rahat, did not exist or were not registered. They didnt like the exercise and complained.
My course head didnt say a word about what was the issue at hand, and she didnt have to. Obviously, bad people out there are searching for imagined offenses so they can hurt careless persons like me and feel powerful. From now I shall use totally imagined situations, with no relation to reality. Most professors in Israel avoid anything related to Israel and use American statistics and examples that are not representative of our life here. I always criticised them saying they acted as if Israel was situated somewhere between California and Nevada, or between Switzerland and Austria, but now I understand they avoid anything remotely controversial or related to a real situation.
How do I feel? Very badly. Depressed. This too will pass.