→ 29 Jul 14 at 4 pm
'Expertise' as used here almost always requires the acceptance and approval of the Powers That Be - automatically excluding anyone who has knowledge that comes from experience (look, ‘expert’ and ‘experience’ have the same root for a reason), who can’t afford/has no access to traditional institutions through which ‘expertise’ is conferred, whose expertise conflicts with the agenda of those Powers, etc., etc.
The glory of Google and Wikipedia and everything like them is their ability to democratize knowledge. Furthermore, that is precisely what teachers want: to help people learn stuff, whether they normally would or not, whether it’s taught in schools or has been thrown aside for three months of test prep, whether it’s the area someone specializes in or is simply curious about… There’s no reason whatsoever that knowledge has to come from a ‘professional’ rather than some other source; that doesn’t make the knowledge any less potent, or any less true.
There is no division between “students and teachers, knowers and wonderers”. I am a teacher; I am also a student, always, because no matter your knowledge, you can always learn more. ‘Knowers’ v. ‘wonderers’? Really? How do you think people come to know things in the first place? I’m definitely an ‘expert’ on a number of things—an institutionally certified expert, even!—but I still wonder about all those things. Besides, who determines what is ‘knowing’? Plenty of those things I have expertise in are *not* institutionally certified, and that makes my expertise not one whit less.
For instance: I know a shitload more about recovering from traumatic brain events than my neurologist. He knows all about how these things happen in the first place, all the ins and outs and mechanisms; however, when it comes to practical advice for what’s necessary to not continue to fuck yourself up in the weeks afterward, he learns a hell of a lot from me. He’s an MD/PhD, he’s about as ‘expert’ as you can get; but that’s nothing in the face of actual experience. In fact, the main reason I knew he was an infinitely better doctor than the other neurologists I’d seen is because he acknowledged how little he knew about the experience of, say, having your life force drained from you by anti-seizure medication. Despite his honest-to-Dog genius, he does not pretend to all-encompassing expertise, or treat his fount of knowledge as the only valid source - which makes him smarter and more ‘expert’ than anyone who thinks they know it all.
And everyone knows that the only difference between professionals and laymen is that one gets paid for their achievements and the other doesn’t. It’s such a pathetic example, really: ‘laymen’ is a word created to distinguish the people who were not endorsed by the institutional Powers That Be in religious life; the Jesus Christ of the Bible was a layman, and as such was anathema to the institution. Now, we’ve all seen how much we should blindly trust and accept what the Church/etc. tells us, right?
Finally, that bit about “achievement in an area” is utterly nonsensical. Is ‘achievement’ supposed to stand in for ‘experience’—which, as already noted, is never accepted as institutionally valid in conferring ‘expertise’? Does ‘achievement’ mean an official document a la a diploma? How many of the world’s political leaders have degrees in management, policy, diplomacy, etc.? Have they ‘achieved’ less than those who have studied those topics in a fucking ivory tower? To reverse the question, there’s that old saw about how those who can’t do, teach. Now, I think that’s bullshit, because teaching is a fucking skill, and plenty of people who have incredible achievement in an area can’t go into a classroom and convey any of that in a useful way. By the same token, when those people *are* good teachers, do we keep them out of the classroom because their ‘expertise’ comes from experience rather than academic success? Never.
This whole thing is bullshit. All those signal words—expertise, professional, layman, student, teacher, knower, wonderer, achievement—are deliberately misused, ignorant of their actual definitions and meanings, to make a faux-profound statement that has no purpose other than to bitch about how the Powers That Be are no longer as all-important in conferring expertise as they used to be.
You can be an expert without paying for it. That really pisses this person off.
"I worry that in an information-driven age of technological marvels, nobody will treat me like I’m a wizard-priest anymore."
I think this is becoming a sort of under-the-table war. And I’m not really exaggerating. For example, recently various academic groups and journals have been banning their members and editors from having blogs:
“Academic blogging grew from the desire to compensate for people being unable to access academic scholarship,” Saideman told the Guardian. He said academic blogging has become a part of a professor’s job and that it is part of a movement to share scholarship with broader groups of people, including translating it into other languages.
One of his many critiques of the ISA’s proposal is that it further reduces the plurality of voices in scholarship, potentially affecting the number of minorities and women heard in academic discussions. If you’re telling people that the only way to be on editorial teams is by reducing your voice elsewhere, then that’s logically going to reduce the amount of voices out there,” Saideman said.