SRQ Magazine, January 13, 2018
To an extent unimaginable 40, even 20, years ago, we live inundated with data. Increasingly many jobs require data analytic skills. Health and investment advice comes with a preliminary barrage of data. So do weather or political forecasts. Whether we like it or not, our shopping, travel and television-watching behavior is collected by corporations, institutions and governments. The result of searches on the internet is based on an analysis of data about our preferences that previous searches have revealed. How many times has an ad popped up on your computer related to something you have explored? The data-gathering abilities and the ubiquity of mobile phones, sensing devices and social media ensure that our society’s generation of data will continue to grow at prodigious rates.
The goal of a liberal arts education is to equip students to participate successfully in our society with the skills necessary to adapt to changing circumstances. They should learn to think imaginatively, to weigh evidence, to express thoughts clearly and to continue learning. Faculty members and curriculum committees at liberal arts colleges seek to ensure that graduates are numerate in the sense that they can manipulate, explore and draw inferences from data. In fact, a distinguished group of statisticians who teach at liberal arts colleges around the country are currently meeting at New College for a conference entitled “Liberal Arts and Data Science.”