Is anyone listening out there? Statistics and the public

The Second International Conference on Teaching Statistics, 1986
Kruskal, W.
Davidson, R., & Swift, J.
The Second International Committee on Teaching Statistics
Victoria, B.C.

The teaching of statistics from kindergarten to graduate university levels is of great importance, and everyone here is concerned with aspects of that teaching. The present talk deals with a less structured side of our statistical outreach: presenting statistical thinking to the several great publics that are out there beyond the classroom and beyond formal education. What of statistics can we transmit to nonstudents in legislatures, courts, factories, the military, the nursery, and so on? How to transmit it? That outreach is important not only for its own direct sake; it also is important indirectly, for, in one way or another, the broad publics out there strongly influence what is done statistically in schools and colleges. I have three broad themes. First, I discuss the natural desire of statisticians to be understood and encouraged by society at large. (Along with that, I discuss parallel natural desires by other groups.) Second, I make suggestions about kinds of statistical lessons for the public . . . which differ from statistical lessons in school. Third, I end with a speculative analysis of the unfortunate near-absence of song, story, and rousing myth that might underlie statistics.