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those engaged in statistical work in this country. Many of the leading colleges and universities of the continent make special effort to fit men to adopt statistical science as a branch of administration, or as a profession.
Körösi, Neumann-Spallart, Ernst Engel, Block, Böhmert, Mayr, Levasseur, and their score or more of peers, may well excite our envy, but more deeply stimulate the regret that one of their number, from his brilliant training and his scientific attainments, cannot present to you to-day the necessity of copying into the curricula of our American colleges the statistical features of the foreign school. For magnificent achievement the American statistician need not blush in the presence of the trained European, for, without conceit, we can place the name of our own Walker along with the names of those eminent men I have enumerated. With all the training of the schools, the European statistician jacks the grand opportunities which are open to the American. Nowhere has the former been able to project and carry out a Census involving points beyond the simple enumeration of the people, embracing a few inquiries relating to social conditions; such inquiries rarely extending beyond those necessary to learn the ages, places of birth, and occupations of the population. Such a Census, compared with the ninth and tenth Federal enumerations of the United States, appears but child's play.
Dr. Engel once said to me that he would gladly exchange the training of the Prussian Bureau of Statistics for the opportunity to accomplish what could be done in our country. For with it all, he could not carry out what might be done with comparative ease under our government. The European statistician is constantly cramped by his government; the American government is constantly forced by the people. The Parliament of Great Britain will not consent to an industrial Census, the proposition that the features of United States Census taking be incorporated in the British Census being defeated as regularly as offered. Nor does any continental power yet dare to make extensive inquiries into the condition of the people, or relative to the progress of their industries. The continental school of statisticians, therefore, is obliged to urge its government to accomplish results familiar to our people. The statistics of births, deaths, and marriages, and other purely conventional statistics, are substantially all that come to the hands of the official statisticians abroad. In this country, the popular demand for statistical information is usually far in advance of the governments, either State or Federal, and so our American statisticians have been blessed with opportunities which have given them an experience, wider in its scope, and of a far more reaching character than has attended the efforts of the continental school. Notwithstanding these opportunities which surround official statistics in this country, the need of special scientific training for men in the administration of statistical work is great indeed.”
One point is brought out strongly in the preceding—that American statisticians have the best opportunity to carry out statistical investigations. Here the people demand the facts. In Europe the rulers may not wish to have them known, and statistical advancement must bow to imperial mandates. Mr. Wright continues :
- The best school for statistical science in Europe is connected with the Prussian statistical bureau, and was established a quarter of a century ago by Dr. Ernst Engel, the late head of the bureau, probably the ablest living statistician in the old world. The seminary of this statistical bureau is a training school, for university graduates of the highest ability, in the art of administration, and in the conduct of statistical and other economic inquiries that are of interest and importance to the government. The practical work is done in connection with the government offices, among which advanced students are distributed with specific tasks. Systematic instruction is given by lectures, and by the seminary or laboratory method, under a general director. Government officers and university professors are engaged to give regular courses to these advanced students. It is considered one of the greatest student honors in Berlin for a university graduate to be admitted to the Statistical Seminary.”
There is no doubt but that the system of instruction and practice followed turns out statisticians fitted to do the work allotted to the European bureaus, but it does not follow that these graduates of courses in statistics would be fitted to carry on investigations in America until they had unlearned many of their old processes and had learned many new ones. Statistics, like medicine, is not an exact science. Hence it watches bad symptoms in the body politic, and, like a skilled physician, looks for causes before attempting to suggest a remedy.
A little, comparatively, has been done in America to teach the science of statistics. But little, if anything, has been done to teach any system of practical statistics. Indeed, the course of study seems to teach the manner of criticizing the work done by others, rather than a way of doing the work. This will be seen from a perusal of the following:
“Our colleges are beginning to feel that they have some duty to perform, in the work of fitting men for the field of administration, and specifically in statistical science. Dr. Ely is doing something at Johns Hopkins, giving some time, in one of his courses on political economy, to the subject of statistics, explaining its theory, tracing the history of the art or science, and describing the literature of the subject. He attempts, in brief, to point out the vast importance of statistics to the student of social science and to put his student in such a position that he can practically continue his study. Johns Hopkins, as soon as circumstances will admit, will probably secure teachers of statistics and administration, in addition to its present corps of instructors.
Dr. Davis R. Dewey, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is also devoting some time, in connection with his other work, to statistical science. He has two courses :
First, A course of statistics and graphic methods of illustrating statistics in which attention is chiefly given to the uses of official statistics of the United States. Students are directed to the limitations there are in this respect, what compilations have been and are made, and to the possible reconciliation of discrepancies which appear in official reports. This course is taken in connection with a course in United States finance, and the student is trained to find and use the statistics which will illustrate the points taken up, and to present them graphically.
Second, An advanced course is given in statistics of sociology, in which social, moral, and physiological statistics are considered, in short, all those facts of life which admit of mathematical determination to express the “average man.” Some of Dr. Dewey's actual problems may serve to illustrate the practical work of his course.
Perhaps the most systematic teaching of the science of statistics in America is given at Columbia College, under the direction of Professor Richmond M. Smith. He has lectured on the subject of statistical science in the Columbia College School of Political Science since the year 1882. His course is an advanced one for the students of the second or third year of that school. In the first year of the work there were but three students of statistical science; at present there are about twenty-five. Professor Smith gives them lectures two hours per week through the greater part of the year. The theoretical lectures cover a brief history of statistics; a consideration of statistical methods; of the connection of statistical science with political and social science; of the attempt to establish social laws from statistical induction ; the doctrine of probabilities, etc., this part of the course being based on German and French writers, principally Mayr, Engel, Wagner, Knapp, Oettingen, Quetelet, Block, and others. The practical part of the Columbia course covers the ordinary topics of statistical investigation, and the statistics are taken, as far as possible, from official publications. These latter lectures are of course comments on the tables and diagrams themselves. Wall tables are used to a certain extent, but experience has found it more convenient to lithograph the tables and diagrams, giving a copy to each student, which he can place in his note-book, and thus save the labor of copying.”
Mr. Wright is strongly impressed with the value of the work of the statistician. He says
“The problems which the statistician must solve, if they are solved at all, are pressing upon the world. Many chapters of political economy must be rewritten, for the study of political economy is now brought under the historical and comparative method and statistical science constitutes the greatest auxiliary of such a method. There is so much that is false that creeps into the popular mind, which can only be rectified through the most trustworthy statistical knowledge, that the removal of apprehension alone by it creates a necessity sufficient to command the attention of college authorities. The great questions of the day, the labor question, temperance, tariff reform, all great topics, demand the auxiliary aid of scientific statistics, and a thorough training is essential for their proper use. But in the first place there should be a clear understanding of what is necessary to be taught.”
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It is certainly essential that “there should be a clear understanding of what is necessary to be taught,” and it is equally essential that there should be a clear understanding of the manner of doing the work—the “practical statistics” science. Mr. Wright recognizes this fully, as will be seen:
“ Statistics is a science in its nature, and practical in its working.
The science of statistics, practically considered, comprehends the gathering of original data in the most complete and accurate manner; the tabulation of the information gathered by the most improved methods, and the presentation of the results in compact and easily understood tables, with the necessary text explanations. It is the application of statistics which gives them their chief popular value, and this application may, therefore, legitimately be called a part of the science of statistics. The theoretical statistician is satisfied if his truth is the result of statistical investigation, or if his theory is sustained. The practical statistican is only satisfied when the absolute truth is shown, or, if this is impossible, when the nearest approximation to it is reached. But the belief that theory must be sustained by the statistics collected, or else the statistics be condemned, is an idea which gets into the popular mind when the expression, theory of statistics, is used. I would, therefore, avoid it, and I hope that should our colleges adopt courses in statistical science, they will agree upon a nomenclature which shall be expressive, easily understood, and comprehensive in its nature.
The necessity of the study of statistical science would not be so thoroughly apparent if the science was confined to the simple enumeration and presentation of things, or primitive facts, like the number of the people; to tables showing crops, exports, imports, immigration, quantities, values, valuation, and such elementary statements, involving only the skill of the arithmetician to present and deal with them. The moment the combinations essential for comparison are made, there is needed something beyond the arithmetician, for with the production of averages, percentages, and ratios, for securing correct results, there must come in play mathematical genius, and a genius in the exercise of which there should be discernible no influence from preconceived ideas. The science of statistics has been handled too often without statistical science, and without the skill of the mathematician. Many illustrations of this point involving the statistics of this country could be given.”
He summarizes, as follows, the various sub-divisions of the science of statistics.
“ The teaching of statistical science in our colleges involves three grand divisions :
1. The basis of statistical science, or, as it has been generally termed in college work, the theory of statistics.
2. The practice of statistics, which involves the preparation of inquiries, the collection and examination of the information sought, and the tabulation and presentation of results.
3. The analytical treatment of the results secured.
These three general elements become more important as the science of statistics becomes more developed; that is, while in conventional statistics, or official statistics if you prefer, meaning those which result from continuous entry of the facts connected with routine transactions, like custom house operations, the registration of births, deaths, and marriages, etc., these three elements may not be apparent. But when considered as regards the collection of information from original sources by special investigation through the Census, through our bureaus of statistics of labor and kindred offices, and through the consular service, these three grand elements assume a vast importance, and statistical science demands that men be employed who comprehend thoroughly and clearly all the features of the three elements of the science, for the variety of facts to be collected suggests the variety of features connected with the work.”
The need of practical instruction in the working part of the science is stated clearly.
“ The analytical work of statistical science demands the mathematical man. While this is true, it is also true that the man who casts a schedule (for instance, to comprehend the various economic facts associated with production), should have the ability to analyze the tabulated results of the answers to the inquiries borne upon the schedule. In other words, the man who casts the schedule should not only be able to foresee the work of the enumerator, or the gatherer of the answers desired, but he should foresee the actual form in which the completed facts should be presented. Furthermore, he should foresee the analysis which such facts stimulate and not only foresee the detail, but foresee in a comprehensive way the whole superstructure which grows from the foundation laid in the schedule. He should comprehend his completed report before he gathers the needed information.
How can these elements in one's statistical education be secured ?”
In reply to the objection brought forward by some that our colleges now teach too much and should reduce rather than increase the number of branches, Mr. Wright states :
“Every well appointed college has its chair of political economy, and this department can be broadened sufficiently to take in statistical science, without impairing efficiency in this or any other department. If this cannot be done, then I would say to the colleges of America that the institutions which soonest grasp the progressive educational work of the day will be the most successful competitors in the race. That college which comprehends that it is essential to fit men for the best administrative duties, not only in government, but in the great business enterprises which demand leaders of as high quality as those essential for a chief magistrate, will receive the patronage, the commendation, and the gratitude of the public."
He substantially closes his paper with the following recommendation :