Ask The Experts

In a recent article, The Atlantic asks Can Schools Be Fixed?. To answer that very broad, completely open ended, and very non-specific question, they went to the “experts”.

Experts like a professor of economics at MIT, the lead education blogger for NPR, a Washington Post reporter, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, an “Emerson senior fellow” (who also writes for the Atlantic), the founder and chairman of IDEO (a design firm), and the presidents of the NEA and AFT. Plus Diane Ravitch, Linda Darling-Hammond, and the CEO of DonorsChoose, all of whom might actually have some expertise to bring to this discussion.

However, completely missing from this particular panel of “experts”, as always, is anyone currently working with K12 students at any level. Not a teacher, no school administrators. Instead we have college professors, leaders of advocacy groups, professional writers, and news reporters. People who may be parents but still only have an outside-looking-in-the-classroom-window view of the education process.

And, of course, the Atlantic editors included no kids. Because we certainly can’t ask any actual students what’s wrong (or right) with their education and what could be done to “fix” their school.

How To Be An Expert Without Actually Knowing Anything

By way of io9, the geeky science fiction (or is that redundant? :-) blog, comes The Evil Futurists’ Guide to World Domination: How to be Successful, Famous, and Wrong.

So what advice do they offer for those who want to have a career in spouting predictive BS?

Be certain, not right.
… no matter what you do, no matter what you believe, be certain. As Tetlock put it, in this world “only the overconfident survive, and only the truly arrogant thrive.”

Sounds like advice for anyone running for public office as well.


Claim to be an expert: it makes people’s brains hurt.

And research proves it!

No expertise, no problem.
… knowing you’re not an expert should make you more confident in your work. And confidence is everything.

One simple idea may be one too many.
Having a single big theory, even if it’s totally outrageous, makes you sound more credible. Having a Great Idea also makes it easier for you to seem like a Great Visionary, capable of seeing things that others cannot.

Get prizes for being outrageous.

Does calling something “award winning” have any meaning these days?

There’s a success hiding in every failure.

Don’t remember your failures. No one else will.

Fact checking is a lost art that desperately needs to be revived.

The author claims “The citations are all real. But no, I don’t really mean a single word of it.”.

I’m not so sure. Maybe he will in the future.

Image: Future City by ILMO JOE, used under a Creative Commons license.

Expertise (aka Propaganda)

Anyone who believes that military experts constantly popping up on the talking heads channels are providing “expert” information needs to read this article from today’s New York Times.

Analysts have been wooed in hundreds of private briefings with senior military leaders, including officials with significant influence over contracting and budget matters, records show. They have been taken on tours of Iraq and given access to classified intelligence. They have been briefed by officials from the White House, State Department and Justice Department, including Mr. Cheney, Alberto R. Gonzales and Stephen J. Hadley.

In turn, members of this group have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated. Some analysts acknowledge they suppressed doubts because they feared jeopardizing their access.

A few expressed regret for participating in what they regarded as an effort to dupe the American public with propaganda dressed as independent military analysis.

“It was them saying, ‘We need to stick our hands up your back and move your mouth for you,’ ” Robert S. Bevelacqua, a retired Green Beret and former Fox News analyst, said.

It seems that many of the retired generals are also working for companies that sell equipment and services to the military, something that the networks don’t bother to tell the viewer.

But why should these guys be different from most of the other heads that present themselves as “experts” while actually selling themselves and/or their employers.

It’s a long article but worth the time.