Be gone Mr Pearson’s correlations coefficient! – Statistics and the Dead Poet’s Society

This blog post comes from Renée Spencer, a community mental health practitioner with experience and training in teaching, counseling, art therapy, and psychology. 

It begins:

“‘Rip, Rip, Rip … this is a battle, a war, and the casualties could be your heart and soul!’ exclaims Mr. Keating (Robin Williams).

The book ripping scene in the Dead Poet’s Society is a classic. A class of young men, quietly await to have their minds filled with instructions on how to interpret the rhyme and meter of poems using precise methodology but instead get told “be gone J. Evans Pritchard, PhD!”

If it’s been a while or you haven’t seen the scene you can watch it here.

There are times when I’m going over statistics for psychology when I feel like embracing Mr Keating’s ethos. My brain says ‘be gone Mr Pearson’s correlations coefficient!’ And it doesn’t stop there, it continues with ‘rip out those pages on p-values, sum of squares, and sample standard deviation!’

It’s a war between seeing the humanity in people and reducing them to data points. I do not like judging people by finite constructs and numbers.

As the storyline in Dead Poet’s Society develops, the students learn to appreciate emotions and see things from new perspectives. This is what I want from psychology, to understand the variation and uniqueness of people …”

You can read more from here.

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