Oooh, Math Is Scary!

From Justice Scalia's dissent in yesterday's Zuni Public School Dist. No. 89 v. Dep't of Ed. (emphasis added):

The majority concludes that this method of calculation, with its focus on student population, is a permissible interpretation of the statute.

It most assuredly is not. To understand why, one first must look beyond the smokescreen that the Court lays down with its repeated apologies for inexperience in statistics, and its endless recitation of technical mathematical definitions of the word "percentile." See, e.g., ante, at 12--13 ("'The n-th percentile is the value xn/100 such that n per cent of the population is less than or equal to xn/100.'" (quoting C. Clapham & J. Nicholson, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Mathematics 378 (3d ed. 2005))). This case is not a scary math problem; it is a straightforward matter of statutory interpretation. And we do not need the Court's hypothetical cadre of number-crunching amici, ante, at 17, to guide our way.

Do not be scared, legal America! Even if technical mathematical definitions of the word "percentile," with subscripts, slashes, n's, x's, and everything, were crucial here, the Justices of the Supreme Court would doubtless have been up to the task. The only thing we have to fear is math-phobia itself.

Thanks to Hanah Metchis Volokh (Purr Se). (Incidentally, as to her latest, though not very recent post: "Mel's Drive-In / Complementary valet parking" seems quite sensible to me: Valet parking is an important complement to any good meal on the Sunset Strip. The restaurant should be complimented on its thoughtfulness.)