Point Counterpoint

On the relative importance of mathematical abstraction in graduate statistical education

_Editor’s Note: This is the counterpoint in our series of posts on the value of abstraction in graduate education. See Brian’s defense of abstraction on Monday and the comments on his post, as well as the comments on our original teaser post for more. See below for a full description of the T-bone inside joke*._** Brian did a good job at defining abstraction. In a cagey debater’s move, he provided an incredibly broad definition of abstraction that includes the reason we call a a smiley face, the reason why we can apply least squares to a variety of data types, and the reason we write functions when programming.

In which Brian debates abstraction with T-Bone

_Editor’s Note: This is the first in a set of point-counterpoint posts related to the value of abstract thinking in graduate education that we teased a few days ago. Brian Caffo, recently installed Graduate Program Director at the best Biostat department in the country, has kindly agreed to lead off with the case for abstraction. We’ll follow up later in the week with my counterpoint. In the meantime, there have already been a number of really interesting and insightful comments inspired by our teaser post that are well worth reading.