Professor Devore, chair for the department of statistics, is concerned that the addition of a master’s degree program in history will muddle the stellar technical reputation of his beloved institution. He asks, “Does Cal Poly really need a master’s degree in this discipline?” Well, I venture to ask the professor this: Does the world really need another statistician? I must admit that my opinion echoes Mark Twain’s “Facts are stubborn, but statistics are pliable.”
Most statistics hold up about as well as a robber looting an ATM with a water gun. There are some stubborn facts, however, grounded in equally stubborn stats: Cal Poly techical students fear a writing exam called the WPE. And if the professor wants some really compelling stats, he should take a look at the number of students who fail the WPE and, as a result, don’t receive their diplomas.
Since we know the professor’s feelings about the “discipline” of history, imagine his ire when the master’s in English was first proposed.
He should come to one of my WPE workshops; they are filled with “technical” students whose jobs at Boeing hinge upon whether or not they can write a coherent essay on surveillance cameras in Clinton, Miss.
So, professor, all the liberal arts are important. The study, not discipline, of history teaches students how to analyze the past so they can understand the present and better plan for the future. Oh, and don’t forget, historians keep many statisticians from the unemployment line.
English teacher’s assistant
Master of Arts candidate in English and Education