Type one and type two errors often refer to the economic problems associated with government regulating organizations like the FDA. Type one errors are when the FDA allows a drug on the market that ends up being harmful. Type two errors are when they restrict a drug that is actually beneficial. The insight behind the destinction is that type one errors are self-correcting. We get a grasp of how extensive the costs of type one errors are simply because they get exposed, but we are completely ignorant as to how prominent and persistent type two errors might be.
On CNN.com today there is a story about a school in Texas teaching kids to fight back against school shootings. I think this points out the existence of type two errors in school administrations’ responses to school shootings. One of the interview subjects was quoted as saying: “If kids are saved, then this is the most wonderful thing in the world. If kids are killed, people are going to wonder who’s to blame,” she said. “How much common sense will a student have in a time of panic?”
This quote demonstrates the destinction between type one and type two errors perfectly. Harmful school programs that do get tried eventually fail and are elliminated, but we don’t get a good glimpse at the programs that are being suppressed in the innovation process. Suppressed programs seems to be the case given that only one school in the entire nation is experimenting with training programs. The possibility of committing a type one error is debilitating discovery thus becoming a type two error.
The question that remains is whether this is a problem which stems from government involvement in the school system or if this would be a problem endemic of any school? I’m inclined to believe that private schools, out from under the thumb of government standardizations and regulations would be more willing to experiment with training programs designed to fight back against school shootings. This is not because I think that such programs are likely to be successful at stopping an attack (though I don’t see why they wouldn’t), but because it seems like an obviously successful deterrent device. If would be school shooters are students themselves, then the training programs signal the high costs of succeeding in carrying out their plans of terrorism. Thus I would claim that schools with fight back training programs would systematically experience fewer school shootings.