Why Everyone Thinks He’s An Education Expert

I’ve long suspected that, when it comes to education, so many people engage in data-free speculation masked as expertise because everyone has been in a classroom as a student–and this, therefore, makes them an expert. Scicurious nails this (boldface mine):

But the reality is, many non-academics (probably most) don’t know all about what we do…they just know SOME. And this half-knowledge is enough to allow them to make assumptions, and roll their eyes at our defensiveness.

It reminded me strongly of similar arguments about teachers salaries and hours. Everyone just kind of…assumes they know what teachers do. They assume that what they do is easy. This is because they don’t know all of what teachers do, they just know SOME. They have half-knowledge.

Consider. I don’t know what stock brokers do. I don’t have a single foggy idea of what they do with their days. Because of this, I would never presume to question if they say their job is hard. I’m willing to take it at face value: I don’t know what they do, I trust their judgement.

But when it comes to teachers, and to university professors…well we all know what they DO. I mean, the vast majority of us aren’t teachers or professors, but we’ve all been students, right? We’ve sat at the desks and watched them as they tried to teach us in our class of 200 sleepy Bio 101 students, or as a harassed-looking AP english teacher tried to teach us to appreciate Invisible Man. We thought that, because of what we saw of them in our classes, we knew what they did. We had (and have) a half-knowledge of what teachers and professors do.

So I wonder if many non-academics base their assumptions only on this half-knowledge. They know they only went to school 9 months of the year, they assume their teachers and professors did, too. They went to Cancun over break, of course the prof must have gotten time off! We have half-knowledge of what a teacher’s life looks like, what a professors life looks like, and we mentally fill in the rest….

Because of this half-knowledge, people make assumptions about our jobs, assumptions that can really affect how we are perceived as people, as professors and teachers, and which could potentially affect funding for the academic projects we need to survive.

This is also a huge problem for K-12 education. I have several colleagues who have taught refresher courses for K-12 teachers, and the teachers always want to hear about how to teach certain topics. Yet most people don’t realize the amount of work that goes into course preparation.

Of course, some people have a limited number of solutions into which they shoehorn any number of problems, but that’s a separate issue….

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1 Response to Why Everyone Thinks He’s An Education Expert

  1. Pingback: On Education, Everyone’s an Expert, Except For the Experts | Mike the Mad Biologist

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