Statistics worrying about losing ground to CS: Claim that CS isn’t worthy
The linked blog post below bemoans the fact that the AP CS is growing, perhaps at the expense of growth in AP Statistics. AP Stats is still enormously successful, but the part of the post that’s most interesting is the author’s complaints about what’s wrong with CS. I read it as, “Students should know that CS is not worthy of their attention.”
It’s always worthwhile to consider thoughtful critiques seriously. The author’s points about CS being mostly free of models and theories is well taken. I do believe that there are theories and models used in many areas of CS, like networking, programming languages, and HCI. I don’t believe that most CS papers draw on them or build on them. It’s an empirical question, and unfortunately, we have the answer for computing education research. A recent multi-national study concluded that less than half of the papers in computing education research draw on or build on any theory (see paper here).
Though the Stat leaders seem to regard all this as something of an existential threat to the well-being of their profession, I view it as much worse than that. The problem is not that CS people are doing Statistics, but rather that they are doing it poorly: Generally the quality of CS work in Stat is weak. It is not a problem of quality of the researchers themselves; indeed, many of them are very highly talented. Instead, there are a number of systemic reasons for this, structural problems with the CS research “business model.”