“I teach statistics to people who don’t want to learn it.”
This is my cocktail party response to people who ask what I do for a living. Even though I usually only teach one course a year, it is a quick way to answer the question and get back to drinking.
Having faced up to the fact that students in education, social science, business – really, any major but statistics – really don’t want to learn statistics, it seemed like years ago when all the point-y click-y interfaces came in, heralded by SPSS, shortly followed by SAS Enterprise Guide, Excel Statistics Add-in, Statistica, Stata and other offerings too numerous to mention, I thought it was a good thing making my students’ lives easier. Now, at least, they did not need to learn programming to get their statistics.
Using both SAS Enterprise Guide and SAS syntax with the web editor this semester, looking at them side by side it has seemed that it is not that much harder to teach programming. Enterprise Guide DOES make it easier to understand what is going on, what is the dependent variable – because it’s labeled.
Today, I read this and, in an article with the obvious title “Teach US kids to write computer code”, and it really made me think
“Programming a computer is not like being the mechanic of an automobile. We’re not looking at the difference between a mechanic and a driver, but between a driver and a passenger. If you don’t know how to drive the car, you are forever dependent on your driver to take you where you want to go. You’re even dependent on that driver to tell you when a place exists.”
I’ve been teaching since 1985. For seven years of that, I was full-time, tenure track – the five years before and fifteen years after that I taught as an adjunct. In all of that time, social science, education and business majors have not – generally – been that excited about learning to code. I took my first two programming courses as an undergraduate business major, because they were required. God bless whoever at Washington University in St. Louis back in 1975 who decided that would be a good thing for students to know.
They definitely did not have the concept of students as customers, but as students. Some faculty committee decided that whether students wanted to learn programming or not, they should, because it was good to know.
Something to think about.