Anyone can do statistics

My favourite pixar movie is Ratatouille. Chef Gusteau’s motto is “tout le monde peut cuisiner”, or, “anyone can cook”. Later in the movie, Anton Ego, voiced by Peter O’Toole, writes “Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.”

Similarly, I believe that anyone can do statistics, or, that not everyone can become a statistician, but a statistician can come from anywhere.

I recently attended a talk where a prominent statistician and data analyst told the story of how she came into the field. It was entirely due to her instructors explicitly encouraging her and telling her that she has potential in the field.

While not all of our students will become statisticians, or major in statistics, or even master the material we attempt to teach them, we must encourage them, keep an open mind, and instill in them a positive identity as statisticians or data scientists/analysts (Cobb & Hodge, 2002). Our students will never believe in themselves if we do not believe in them first.

I came home from the talk and sent an email to my students from last semester to encourage them to consider furthering their skills, to explicitly state that I believe they have potential as data analysts, and to attempt to instill in them an identify as a statistician.

My message to them: Not only can you do statistics, you have done statistics. You are a statistician.

References and further reading:

Cobb, P., & Hodge, L. (2002). Learning, identity, and statistical data analysis. In Sixth International Conference on Teaching Statistics (ICOTS6), Cape Town, South Africa.

Lewis, B. (Producer), & Bird, B. (Director). (2007). Ratatouille [Motion Picture]. United States: Pixar.

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