hints of a fearsome truth

Draft of 2005.09.08 ☛ 2015.11.26

Shopping for textbooks, I’ve stopped in at three bookstores on campus. Just for fun. No, really—I always like to stroll up and down the aisles and get a feel for what all the people in all the various colleges and their departments are assigning. Now and then I even pick up a neat-looking Machine Learning, Molecular Dynamics, or History of Science book. So sue me; I’m a pan-geek.

My wife was with me this last time. She pointed out, as she often does, something I missed entirely. There are, like, seventeen different “Introduction to Probability and Statistics” textbooks, scattered in the Biz School, Engineering, Medicine, Biology, Psychology, Social Sciences, Applied Math, and for all I know Art History shelves [I did see Guns, Germs and Steel as an assigned reading in one very interesting Art History class].

Many of these are, by implication, remedial Probability and Statistics—for graduate students, in many cases, but also for “advanced” undergraduates. And that is so wrong, it hurts. Practical, modern probability and statistics courses should be required at the entry level in all curricula. Period. I say quit futzing with calculus for anybody but mathematics majors, and get everybody tight with R.

Oh, and as I recall there was not one Probability and Stats books in the Elementary Education shelves.