Anyone can make a mistake, but to really mess things up requires a degree and the dubious title of ‘expert’.
I don’t know about you, but as I occasionally peek out of my own insulating bubble of indifference I get the feeling the world seems to have lost its grip on common sense. The combined wisdom of generations upon generations of ‘old wives’ and ‘jack-of-all-trades type men’ seems to have been whisked away like a fart in an over-complicated cyclone. We’re less healthy now than we’ve ever been (the occasional medieval plague not withstanding), we’re more broke that previous generations and our literacy and numeracy levels are falling faster than a sky-diver with no parachute.
How, in this day and age, is this happening? As alluded to in my opening sentence, I reckon the answer is ‘experts’. We’ve outsourced our common sense and faithfully placed in the loving hands of experts who have been trained in a particular area, because, ya know, apparently they know about these things. But if you have a close look at things, our world’s downhill slide began shortly after the rise in the numbers of people undertaking university education.
I left school just as this tertiary education craze was just taking off, but back then you only really considered university if you were going into law or medicine or some other ‘high-end calling’. Not so these days. I just did a quick perusal of casual jobs etc and just about everything these days requires some kind of certificate or qualification. I kid you not, even an ad for a kitchen hand/dishwasher wanted some kind of food safety certificate. To wash dishes……..
Anyway, as usual I digress. This upward trend in the number of people running around with degrees means that they all have to find something to do to justify the tens of thousands of dollars they’ve just spent on their ejukation. So what do they do? They take an issue, say for example ‘are potatoes bad for you’, undertake a study whereby they interview one hundred patients in a cancer ward, ask if they’ve ever eaten a potato and then conclusively state that potatoes give you cancer. And because they claim to be experts we all stop eating spuds.
Over exaggerating? Maybe, but look at the evidence, an apply common sense. Take the three areas I mentioned above – our health, our finances and our education. All three areas have highly educated experts and intellectuals conducting studies and developing theories designed to take us forward into a bright future. But are we heading that way? Uh uh.
I find it slightly amusing that just a mere couple of generations ago, Grannies the world over, with no formal nutritional training were serving their families balanced, healthy meals and obesity really was the domain of the lazy or glutinous, or in rare cases medical conditions. These days, although the stigma still seems to stick, it’s not the case. I know of quite a few people who do everything right, as far as the experts say, and still gain weight. They eat low fat this, and diet that, they exercise as much as their bodies will allow them and they follow the latest fad diet some nutritionist says is this week’s super diet. And…..nothing but expanding waistlines to show for it.
“But we’re living longer.” The defenders of intellect will tell you, and yes they’re right. But just because we’re living longer, doesn’t mean we’re living healthier. Our longevity is due to artificial intervention in the form of medicines. Heart disease is at levels unheard of even fifty years ago, but it’s ok because they have a pill for that. I could go on but you get the idea.
As for finance, well I’m about as sharp as a marble in this area, but even I can see people are struggling more now than they were in the 1950’s and 60’s. Back then your average family of Mum, Dad and two and a half kids, could pretty much have it all on just the one wage. They could afford a modest shanty, school education and some decent tucker on the table. More often than not they could also afford an annual holiday somewhere across this wide brown land of ours. Try that now, it’s impossible. Today’s average family probably has both Mum and Dad at work, the kids in child-care, fast food because no one has time to cook and an annual holiday? Forget it. Even if you don’t buy a house, a very large slab of your wage goes towards paying rent and it’s all very difficult to cope with and not to resort to Government assistance.
But the finance sector has been saying we’re doing well for decades. Economic growth is powering ahead and the models predict that it will continue to do so. What a wonderful age of economic certainty we live in. Well the increasing number of dejected, defeated-looking people sitting by their meagre possessions I see on the streets as I walk to and from work every day, tend to suggest that the rosy picture the experts are painting is more ‘abstract’ than ‘real-life’.
And then there’s education. As the father of three youngn’s who have traversed the system, all I can say is thank the Gods that’s over. It has been incredibly frustrating watching the ‘techniques’ that teachers are being told to instruct. I actually had to stop trying to help my kids because my old-school, common sense approach to simple mathematics was confusing the poor little buggers because their teachers showed them some weird kind of line diagram with looping bits connecting different bits, just to add two numbers together.
I find it incredible that people from my generation, ie those who left school in the early to mid-1990’s, and generations before all received their education with nothing more than a pen and paper, maybe a text book, and un-fettered access to the school library’s Encyclopaedia Britannica. Today’s students have access to all the information in the world with just a click of the mouse, and yet their basic literacy and numeracy skills, as well as their abilities to think for themselves, are so far below the levels of previous generations. This is not an indictment of today’s students. They are, after all, made up of all the same bits and pieces we were. It’s a damning indictment of the experts systematic destruction of all the things which used to work perfectly well, just to try and justify their own existence by conducting ‘studies’ and telling us all to change age-old practices accordingly.
So there, I’ve identified the problem. So what’s the solution? It’s quite simple really. Start prizing common sense over excessive education. To the parents of school aged children and our current crop of teachers, don’t hold university as the only aim worthy of reaching. Do this not just in meaningless words but in action. For example, for each of my kids going into year 10 at school there was an information night on how to select subjects for senior school. It consisted of fifteen to twenty minutes of what to do for a trades or traineeships, and then a further hour and a half on university pathways. It gives kids the impression that practical vocations are not worth much.
Anyway, employers have a role to play as well. Stop looking for 18 year old school leavers with 10 years’ experience in the exact role you need. Instead, take an un-skilled young adult and provide them with the skills in a real-world situation. You’ll end up with a better trained employee who has a natural ability to learn on the job. And it’ll keep them from falling into the tertiary education trap, where they will end up having to justify their existence by becoming experts and conducting studies.
And finally, if someone tells you they’re an expert, just remember that very few experts have any real expertise in the area they pretend to be expert in. Question everything they tell you, and use your own common sense.