Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Myth of the Expert

Anonymous left a comment on the previous post asking, "What is The Myth of the Expert?" Good question. I left the following comment on the blog but want to add some more content to it for clarification.

The Hopper brothers wrote in the book "The Puritan's Gift" that the key to our economic, social and spiritual strength was the approach to work and relationships we got from the Puritans. The were all ready and willing to pitch in and get "their hands dirty". In Britain and Europe, managers did not ever do practical work so they did not have practical knowledge.

Over the past few decades the USA has developed a "professional class of experts" that is out of touch with practical knowledge. This leads us to rack and ruin because the top bankers have never loaned anyone anything. They are theoretically trained in economics not banking so they ruined the financial industry.

The same is often true in counseling, religion and family life. Experts rely on fuzzy theories not practical life. For years such counselors recommended divorce to women who were frustrated with marriage. Then, the wrecks of millions of divorcees started showing up in their offices and those "experts" started to change their minds.


In the book "The Churching of America" social researchers Starke and Finke say that there is an inverse relationship between seminary graduation rates and church growth. Since the days of the American Revolution the churches with fewer seminary trained Ministers have out planted and out grown those with "experts" at the helm.

In the Seventies I started doing research for a Doctorate on the best ways to train Christians to care and counsel. Much to my surprise I discovered that lay persons (Peers) were as effective or more effective when compared with Professional "expert" Counselors.

The West seems to be hurdling toward making expertise and education even more central to education, business and especially medicine. The medicalization of all kinds of moods and attitudes is not good for the country and it is driving much of the current increase in medical costs. Counselors made a pact with the "expert model" when we started taking third party payments for our work. Those who pay the piper calls the tune so now we have to pretend that it is our expertise and theoretical education that make us better Counselors. That is a major part of the "Myth of the Expert".

One last point. When Universities started programs for Masters in Business Administration, companies started moving away for requiring managers to have common sense and knowledge of the businesses they were in. This was part of the growing "Myth of the Expert" and leads the USA down a road to bad management and a lack of understanding of the way companies and workers operate.

Unions bought into the "Myth" and started demanding that their members got better jobs based not on skill, understanding and abilities but on "seniority". The term "fairness" replaced the need for someone who really knew the business.

I know of churches that selected Senior Pastors on their ability as "Motivational Speakers". In some cases the person had never himself worked in a church and knew nothing about Sunday school, committee work, hospital visitation, etc. Just as the Chris Farley character on Saturday Night Live was a poor leader so were these men. They had no practical knowledge of how to manage a congregation.

You can buy Hope and Change for Humpty Dumpty at Author House.

NOTE: I am not anti education. I have several advanced degrees. The issue is having practical people and management skills along with the theoretical knowledge.

No comments: