Universities and the Death of Expertise

Note – this is Part 2 of a series on Tom Nichols’ book The Death of Expertise. You can also go to Part 1 and Part 3.

Continuing on a series of posts about the book The Death of Expertise, I have hit his chapter on education. Though I have some issues with it, I largely agree with it. The funny thing is, it contradicts the whole thesis of his book

Why is this? Simple.

Nichols says that one of the reasons for the failure of people to trust experts is in the failure of colleges and universities to really teach. But here’s a question – who runs these colleges and universities? Answer: Experts. In fact, I can’t think of another institution whose entire bloodline runs as thick with experts as education:

  • The president of the school is usually a Ph.D., with well-known expertise
  • The college system itself gets accredited by experts
  • The act of education is deliberated and debated in journals that are by experts and for experts
  • A lot of the general motivations and goals of education are set by politicians (i.e., experts) in coordination with think tanks (groups of experts) who believe they know what is best for the country
  • Anyone who disagrees with the utility of college is thought of as an ignoramus who disagrees with expertise
  • The people who decide who gets to have a Ph.D. are other Ph.D.’s (experts)
  • The people who decide which Ph.D. gets to be a faculty member are other faculty members (i.e., experts)
  • Once a faculty member, outsiders (i.e., non-experts) cannot remove these people because of tenure (which is an outgrowth of the idea that experts should not be bossed around by non-experts)
  • The idea that everyone should go to college is based on the idea that everyone should listen to the experts, therefore we need to go where they are
  • The people who set the standards in the classroom are either (a) professors (i.e., experts) or (b) the school administration (a group of experts in education itself).

Top to bottom, education is run by experts. If there is a problem in education, it is a problem from the experts or of the experts.

Comments are closed.