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Are people in positions of authority really smarter than the rest of us?

By Shellbot ·
Read this article last week and it really hit a note with me. Are all the people i think are more knowledgable than me really so? Ok granted they've more experience than me, and when it comes to a Dr, fair enough..but lets say teachers right..I recently overheard a guy who does a bit of teaching say he just rips stuff of the net and hands it out in class, thats how he "keeps up with the new stuff". Anyone can do that.

Here's the article, any thoughts?

One of the most terrifying lessons I have learned is that, by and large, grown-ups don't really know what they are doing. As a schoolkid, I mistook my teachers for all-knowing, infallible beings protected by an invisible forcefield of adulthood. Even as I grew older, left school, became a student, left polytechnic and became a fledgling adult myself, I laboured under the delusion that people in positions of authority were inherently more "adult" than I was - that they possessed some kind of on-board mental computer that guided them towards making the right decision, even if I didn't always agree with it.
My overdue epiphany finally arrived in my mid-20s, at a barbecue, when I found myself talking to a girl the same age as me who was a schoolteacher, and she described how, much of the time, she was teaching the kids things she had only read the week before in the textbook. As long as she stayed one chapter ahead, she was fine. At first I was genuinely surprised; I had thought all that knowledge was stored in their heads. Then it got worse.
I met a doctor, not much older than myself, who was a) drunk and b) pretty stupid. I realised that in terms of age, I had caught up with the "adults", and was horrified to learn they were all just as ham-fisted as me. At least the young ones were. The older generation surely had a better handle on things, I reasoned. They had to, or the world would slide into chaos. Then I passed 30 and realised I still didn't have a clue what was going on. Now I'm 36, and if there is one thing I do know, it's that I still don't know that much. No one does. Everybody's winging it. Everything is improvised.
And the world never "slides into chaos" - it's perpetually chaotic because all of us, from beggars to emperors, are crashing around trying to make the best of an unpredictable universe. We are little more than walking mistake generators. Dumb animals, essentially. Things would be just as messy if hens ruled the world. This is true, and it's scary. But also sort of glorious.
Consider that an extended caveat for the following humiliating confession: I don't understand the news. Not entirely. Let me explain: I watch and read the news, not obsessively, but probably often enough to be doing my bit as a concerned citizen. But I can't keep up with it. I follow it, but I don't always truly follow it, if you see what I mean.
Entertainment news aside, every story comes with a complex back story consisting of a million tiny events, of countless shades of right and wrong, of mistake piled upon mistake, successes and failures, injustices and struggles. It's like trying to follow the plot of the most complicated and detailed soap opera ever made, one that was running for centuries before you started tuning in. To truly understand a major news story often requires real effort - more than many people are willing to give - which is why most of us know more about celebrities than, say, the Israel-Palestine situation.
I think people who work in hard news often forget this. They are submerged in it. They know the cast, they have followed the storylines and they can't help assuming their readers or viewers have similar knowledge. In reality, most people probably missed the crucial, earlier episodes, and subsequently can't quite relate to the story. We can see it's important - it's the news! - but we don't always feel its importance. If more of us did, there would probably be open revolt - or at least more revolt, more often.
In my mid-20s I wrote for videogames magazines. I was proud of my work. It was just an excuse to write jokes really, and it was great fun. But while videogame fans seemed to like what I did, it was baffling to the average Joe: peppered with terminology about polygon counts and frame rates, and gags that referenced other, older games. To the casual observer, it was a minefield of unfamiliar acronyms.
This is fine for specialist writing but it alienates the outsider. A lot of news coverage is specialist writing. It's news written for news fans. And the stuff that isn't seems to consist of stories about Sienna Miller's arse, which is easy to follow because, well, there's not much to it. Because she is so thin.
I can't help thinking that what we need now, perhaps more than ever, is a populist and accessible Dummies' Guide to Now. The BBC News website does this brilliantly, with regular bite-sized primers attached to major stories, which attempt to explain the back story to newcomers clearly and concisely, without being patronising or stupid. It has simple titles such as "Who is Scooter Libby?", and is a rare oasis of clarity. I would like to see it launch some kind of 24-hour "news companion" channel, or red-button service, that does the same thing on TV: a rolling fill-in-the-blanks service that helps you get up to speed. A catch-up service for reality, if you like. Not dumbed-down news, but clear information - something that often gets lost in the 24-hour scramble of breaking developments and updated headlines.
Maybe it's just me who craves that. Maybe I'm thick. Maybe the rest of you understand everything and I'm alone in my ignorance. But I doubt it. I think the vast majority of us are winging it, at least 18 chapters behind in the textbook and secretly praying no one else will notice. If we all knew more, we would do more to lend a hand, instead of shrugging and hoping the news might some day go away or submerging ourselves in comforting trivia. Don't just tell us what is important. We might not have paid attention earlier. Toss us a bone. Tell us why.

Charlie Brooker
Monday March 26, 2007
The Guardian <javascript:ol('');>

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Yes, Yes I am

by JamesRL In reply to Are people in positions o ...

<sarcasm alert for the title>

Seriously if you didn't rebel just a little against some of your teachers in hig school, I'd consider you apathetic.

I questioned my teacher in high school all the time. Some took it badly and chewed me out after class. Some chose to take it as a learning opportunity and opened up the debate. I was a small C conservative in a fairly "liberal" school, but even a couple of conservative teachers would not let me get away with making unreasoned arguments - they would challenge me to challenge them. And I appreciated that they taught me great lessons from that.

As for those in authority as bosses and world leaders, I respect that they may have worked hard to get where they are, and that process may have given them different insights. But we still have the right to suggest and question, at least in most things. How you do it can be a huge factor.

From my years of experience I know that leaders are people too. I've had a beer with an ex Prime Minister. He had been Prime Minister, beaten up by his own party, and come back to be a respected politician. But he still is human, and flawed like us all, and he at least was humble enough to admit it (he was pretty good at self-deprecating humour).


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by Shellbot In reply to Yes, Yes I am

You rebeled in school??

I'm shocked..i just cannot imagine it..your such a polite, kind, gentle person.

Simply shocking behaviour!


*how ya been anyways? hope yer keeping well!

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Was I rebel?

by JamesRL In reply to James

Well yes and no. I had a great teacher who impressed upon us the value of critical thinking.

That particular teacher was so full of himself. I couldn't let his error go unchallenged when he was passing it along to a full class.

I've been better. Wife has been in the hospital for two weeks. She had a seizure, hit her head on concrete and had a fracture and concussion. Brain swelled, lost some speech ability and also had inner ear balance problems. No cognitive deficits, just problems getting the words out, concetrating on reading, short term memory issues. She is coming home today. She can now walk with the aid of a walker.

I've been on a regular cycle - I am working shorter days (thank you boss), getting the kids off to school, making meals, cleaning house and shuttling back and forth to the hospital. I have no apologies to make for not keeping everyone of her relatives and mine up to date with every single piece of medical trivia that comes up - but somehow they think I should do that on top of everything else. We have succeeded in keeping my mother in law at the current distance of 3000 miles away. :)

I'm getting through. I've had some work challenges - its review time, my boss is reorganizing the groups, and I've been struggling with senior management in the US over resources.


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Somebody shut this guy up

by waynesreed In reply to Are people in positions o ...

My friend, welcome to the elite. We are those who know the secret. The top 20%. Don't let anyone else know.
I've come to the conclusion that the masses find solitude in the belief that everything out there is being guided by those of high intelligence with a master plan. Here's the truth. Everything just sort of flows along IN SPITE OF the best efforts of those in power. It's really all about normal humans just plugging away at it looking after their own self interest. Adam Smith called this the "Invisible Hand".
I was kidding about keeping it secret. You can try to tell the world that their teachers, preachers, politicians, parents, bosses, etc. are no than smarter than they, but they won't hear you. Just like the other guy mentioned, it's all about taking responsibility. If you are a responsible person, welcome to the club and keep it to yourself. If you can't handle the responsibility then you can just hide in a little corner of the world and show up 9-5 and try not to think too much about it.
Politicians and teachers are just faking it in a desire to forward their own interests (which usually includes feeling important/useful/powerful).
In terms of the news, you're putting too much faith in the reporters. The news stories are usually 98% fluff with the occasional factoid. You can usually glean just as much important information from Jay Leno's monologue as in an hour of network news - with entertainment added for no extra charge.

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by Grimshiire In reply to Are people in positions o ...
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The Great Equalizer and Importance of Philosophy

by jhardy In reply to Are people in positions o ...

In a certain respect, we are all winging it. But that is not the same thing as chaos. Loosing a bit of one naivet?? is a good thing. Nobody knows everything?even about our individual areas of expertise. But we can know quite a bit. The trick is to go through life without repeating as many errors as possible. We accomplish this by learning from our own mistakes and from those made by others. If we do this even reasonably well, it develops for us a philosophy. In the most simple form, we learn that fire is hot by touching a glowing ember ourselves, or by watching the results when our neighbor does so. Years later, we see a glowing ember and do not need to touch it or experience it directly in any way to understand what the potential consequences are. We then instruct the young who come after us in these things. If they are relatively bright and free of rebellion, they will never have to burn their hand.

Older Adults do know more as long as they have retained this knowledge. We have 5000 years of recorded human history to instruct us. Since the first drop of pigment was laid upon papyrus?even further back?since the first scratch was laid upon stone to record a message until this very day, we have passed knowledge and wisdom down. We fail largely to the extent that we forget, ignore, and/or disregard that which has been learned and re-learned throughout the eons.

Dumb animals?.scratching hens? Maybe only to the extent that we do not learn. If we approach each lesson or life event as if it were new and unique, we are destined to spend much of the time re-mistaking (to coin a term). It is a form of narcissism to believe that life and time begins and ends with you and your experiences. And doing so virtually defines a societal insanity?repeating the same things over and over again, lamenting the results and hoping it will all be different, this time. Fortunately, if one wishes to remove an amount of chaos and uncertainty from one?s life, those who came before took the time to record a bunch of stuff for our reference and those records forms the core of our successful philosophical tradition.

Be well,

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Excellent - and thank you...

by boxfiddler Moderator In reply to The Great Equalizer and I ...

"Dumb animals?" I have to take issue with that statement as well.

If all we are is dumb animals, we certainly don't do animal behavior particularly well. Animals exist and function in concert with their environment. We humans on the other hand are constantly trying to force our environment to bend to our will. Periodically the freaking Army Corps of Engineers brings up rerouting the Mississippi River. Puhlease... Only a human could come up with that sort of conquering attitude toward natural force.

Even animals tend to learn - where not to cross the river in Spring for example. And how did they learn that? By crossing the river there last Spring (ie. learning from their mistakes - perhaps with the exception of lemmings...).

Animals starve and die off when the population becomes too numerous for the environment to support. We humans on the other hand "show compassion" and go out of our way to try to save the starving.

Animals instinctively kill other animals (including thier young) for food or for some reason relating to territory or mating. Humans too often enjoy killing other humans for no particular reason.

Excepting (that I know of) certain species of ants and hornets (and those are insects, not animals), animals don't go to war.

Dumb animals have sense enough to flee eminent disaster. Humans have a ridiculous tendency to hang around the house trying to protect their posessions, often at the cost of their lives.

While the last statement could be mistakenly taken to prove that we are indeed dumb animals, it is in fact a negation of that. Humans do not behave in concert with their environment and trying to keep their "stuff" safe is the ultimate example of that.

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And now you see why we have BUSH as President!

by the_webninja In reply to Are people in positions o ...

Yes, you carefully outlined the awakening of the situation in life for many of us.
You are right on many counts. But it is not the same for everyone. It all boils down to Priorities and Values. We focus on what we think is important, and that is what we fill our heads up with on a daily basis.

For example we don't care so much about what is happening in the News, because the Country is run by an idiot who doesn't listen to anything we have to say anyway, and Fox News reports whatever they feel like it, forget about the FACTS, it's all about entertainment now, not the Facts. Like you said it's basically a Soap Opera, and rationally minded individuals, have pretty much given up on it all. We can't change anything when the Idiots are in charge, when the News is no longer representing the Truth, then what is the Point?

So we redirect our attention to other things, which is exactly what people like Bush and Chenney WANTS us to do, play stupid and go along with whatever they Tell you.
The World Trade Center was Crashed by Places and Building 7 Collapsed well...just because,...and they found an Jet Engine of a Fighter Jet or Military Missile inside the Rubble of the Pentagon because....uhh..well,..don't worry about that right now,...and forget about the fact that the people they said flew the Planes are alive an well working Jobs SCREAMING that the whole thing is Bullshitt, forget about that too.
Forget about the fact that Flight Records listed the Flight number of a Plane that had supposedly Crashed AFTER **1 still flying around. Forget about that too.

We can't DO anything about Global Warming, we're Doomed, plain and simple, so everyone with all this going on, is more focused on immediate temporary happiness. Not the News,
the News is the LAST thing we want to watch. Unless you like being Decieved and Lied to, maybe relative to watching a Who REALLY Done it. Or a What REALLY happened? :)

If you enjoy the cold harsh Realty that Thousands of our Neighbors and Loved ones are getting their Arms and Legs Ripped off by Bombs on a daily basis so that Bush can secure and Oil Deal for the Iraq Pipeline and make Billions in Personal Gain for the Bush Family and Haleburten, if you can agree that Thousands of Americans are being Slaughtered on a Daily basis for Bush's personal Gains, then maybe you might want to keep up with just how many are dying to make Bush Money at $3.00 a Gallon for Gas at the gas Pumps. That might be something you want to know.

But most of us feel more like we want to burry our heads in the sand and forget about Life. Simply because we feel like there is nothing we can do about it anymore.

And as far as Adults being Smarter than the Rest of us, well, it's good you have been Humbled and Awakened by the Truth, but this Truth will also cause you pain, because now you will realize for the rest of your Life you will have to work for People who are stupider than you are. And it will frustrate the Living Helll out of you, believe me!

As you progress with your Awakening, you will realize it only gets worse. People will no longer hire you based on Merrit or ability to do the Job, instead they are more concerned about if you misspelled anything on your Resume. They will just be itching to LOOK for any reason they can to Damn you. That is the TRUTH of our Society, any little thing will toss your life into the dark Abyss forever. One little asshole Boss down the line, and you are finished.

One dirty little Rumour from being one of those Homeless people pushing Carts down the Street. THAT is your Reality.

It is not about what you are Capable of, what you can DO for Society, it is about if you are willing to Play the Game. Once you decide you have figured out the game, that's when your Trouble REALLY begins.

Doctors PRACTICE Medicine, because they really don't know what they are doing. Half the Procedures they do, they have never done before. And Most of them don't even BELIEVE in Vitamins and Nutrition! Like it is Sacriledge to think of anything as a Solution but DRUGS.

Hatred and Contempt RULE the people's minds as a Dominating Thought Process, invaiding every single aspect of Society. Work, Home Life, School, Music, Entertainment, it's all about Violence, Hatred, making up any reason at all to Hate Others, instead of treating them with Compassion and Understanding.
Ask the YO MTV Gangstas that Hate for Street names, Colors, and sides of Town, you know the one's crusing around in Brand New SUVs with Record deals because everyone Worships their Songs of Hatred and Contempt they are made into GODS of Idol Hatred, while others who just try to survive are Denied Jobs because they Misspelled something on a Resume.

While a Military Member who is Crippled can wonder if they will ever have Sex with a Woman again. Because Bush was Greedy for Iraq Oil.

This is your Reality. But it is good that you are awakening to it. Now you have a Responsiblity to TAKE ACTION, because you are no longer ignorant.

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Always good for a laugh or two. :)

by daveo2000 In reply to And now you see why we ha ...

This guy is just too funny. I like the way he randomly capitalizes the first letter or sometimes entire words.

What is really cool is how he takes entire passages out of 60's communist propaganda and word-smiths them to appear current.

I worry sometimes, though, that somebody might actually take him as being serious. What a travesty that would be! ]:) I know he tries to put hints in like entertainingly misspelt words and grammatical impossibilities, but sometimes it gets lost in the attempted realism of his diatribes.

You have to hand it to the guy. He took this absurd personality that he made up and makes it look almost believable in spite of itself!

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Is this post rational?

by jhardy In reply to And now you see why we ha ...

Interesting. The Webninja says,"...and rationally minded individuals, have pretty much given up on it all. We can't change anything when the Idiots are in charge...."

Webninja says that the "rationally minded" have given up and that "we can't change anything," inferring that Webninja considers himself to be one of the ratioanlly minded.

Well, placing such self-compliments aside for the moment, it appears that Webninja is at the very least cynically-minded. Not everything is about Global Warming, President Bush, and your personal job-search struggles--whether you agree with them or not.

Be well,

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