12/01/2015

Share: Expert Opinions?

Listening to Morning Edition today... and this'n came up: "Being Labeled an Expert..."

Growing up in a family with close ties to academia (my mother is an anthropology professor) gave me an intuitive grasp of how the psychology of that little NPR blip plays out: I can't tell you how many professorial garden parties I've had to roll my eyes at over time. The problem is that the more you inhabit the role of someone in authority, the more you believe you are the authority. If you've explained something the same way thousands of times then it's hard to change your opinion on it. I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who may still be surprised to find out that many dinosaurs sprouted feathers, looked like absurd ostriches, ran around hot-blooded, and lived in arctic environments.

I have to say: this is why I don't self-describe myself as a luthier (and hence: ratified, card-carrying expert) and why I always try to keep an open mind about instruments and instrument design no matter how lowly or lofty. I don't think there's truly any right way to do something in this field, though there are degrees of success depending on how you do the work and what choices you make when doing it.

Perhaps that sounds like postmodernist jargon -- but, really -- what progress has come by doing something the same way over and over and over and having the same problems crop up down the road?

4 comments:

Jeff Todd Titon said...

No doubt that is true of too many academics. But not all. Some believe just as you do, and that is the best way to encourage students to learn, not just to know the answer. Sometimes answers do need to change over time.

Jake Wildwood said...

Jeff: I totally agree. I think most academics are actually 100% excellent. I've just seen the few who get stuck in a rut with the ego boost and recognize the symptoms.

Jake Wildwood said...

Moreover... I shared because these symptoms crop up everywhere -- especially when we're a culture with embedded talking heads behind every bush and trash can... :)

Paul Mattor said...

It is important that you do not carry yourself as an expert, or worse, obtain "credentials". From my experience in a totally unrelated field, but going it alone in the rarefied air of an obscure field as you do, associations and credentials can make a convenient shield a hack or poser can hide behind.

Your approach of just doing it quietly and with excellence creates your own credentials. The good folks will want to associate with you. In the end, your reputation and friendships bypass the phony baloney gobbledygook of what you call yourself and where you got your degree.