John Cook writes that he’d like to hear more people talk about “educational monoculture.” I don’t actually know John Cook but I enjoy reading his blog, so I feel like the least I can do is to honor his request.
I have to admit that I have a bit of a monocultural temperament myself. I have strong feelings about the right and wrong way to do things, and I don’t have much patience for what seems to me to be the wrong way. As a result, I’ve often disparaged or ignored important statistical developments because some small aspect of the new idea didn’t fit with my thinking. (On the plus side, I think I’ve disparaged or ignored lots more bad ideas thad deserve oblivion.)
I’ve always been suspicious of the hedgehog/fox distinction because my impression is that just about everybody likes to think of him or herself as a fox. Being a hedgehog is like being “ideological”; most of us like to think of ourselves as pragmatic foxes. And in any case I think most statisticians are foxes.
One of the many positive outcomes of my mugging at Berkeley was a commitment to pluralism (for example, see here).
Beyond this, I move away from my natural monocultural instincts by teaching classes that include material I wouldn’t otherwise cover, by listening carefully to people I respect who do things in a different way than I do, and by thinking hard about why certain methods or attitudes which seem silly to me, still remain popular.
Finally, my approach as a political scientist and public opinion researcher is to understand the views of others. I think I have a pretty good grip on why it can make sense for people to vote for Gingrich or Romney or Obama or Santorum or whatever, and I’m interested in understanding political ideologies as they manifest themselves in different areas (even in statistics, where political views range from Dennis Lindley to Jacob Wolfowitz).
“Moving beyond monoculture” doesn’t mean that I abandon my skepticism but it means that I should at least try to understand other approaches to looking at the world.
P.S. I thought the above discussion would be more useful than yet another argument about the extent to which modern education is such a scam etc.