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Academic Arrogance: of profs and lawyers

Knowital AwardThe philosopher Foucault pointed out that knowledge and power are so intimately related that we cannot really think about them separately.  Sadly, Foucault missed the point shown by the career of Herman Knowsitall. Often. especially in business. peope in power .. the bosses .. insist that they know it all and use their power in ways that hurt themselves as well as others.

This has been a real issue in my own family feud where there is one person, an attorney. who insists she knows much more about the law than she really does.  When politely asked to elaborate, her answer is “You are not paying me!”

The same sort of arrogance can play itself out in classroom.  An academic blogger called the “Thesis Whisperer” relates:

“For years and years I taught 3D computer modelling and animation to architects and interior designers. As you probably know, when you have been teaching something difficult for a while you start to see the same mistakes over and over again. It’s easy, dangerously easy, to forget that it’s new people making these same mistakes and get, well – grumpy.

A student taught me this important lesson one day in a computer lab. I don’t even remember what I was trying to teach her, but I do remember she was an infuriatingly slow learner. My impatience grew till eventually (I’m ashamed to admit this) I literally grabbed the keyboard out of her hands and said something like “No no no! You do it THIS way

In front of 20 of her classmates the student reminded the prof that his job was to teach her – and that I was doing a shitty job. Then she left. All the other students just sat there, staring.  The prof  had an hour of class left “it was mortifying.”

Of course, unlike the Whisperer my relative has the defense that she is not being paid when she pontificates.


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