Skip to comments.Amateurs Outdoing Professionals (Thomas Sowell)
Posted on 08/19/2008 1:01:58 PM PDT by jazusamo
When amateurs outperform professionals, there is something wrong with that profession.
If ordinary people, with no medical training, could perform surgery in their kitchens with steak knives, and get results that were better than those of surgeons in hospital operating rooms, the whole medical profession would be discredited.
Yet it is common for ordinary parents, with no training in education, to homeschool their children and consistently produce better academic results than those of children educated by teachers with Master's degrees and in schools spending upwards of $10,000 a year per student which is to say, more than a million dollars to educate ten kids from K through 12.
Nevertheless, we continue to take seriously the pretensions of educators who fail to educate, but who put on airs of having "professional" expertise beyond the understanding of mere parents.
One of the most widespread and dramatic examples of amateurs outperforming professionals has been in economies that have had central planning directed by highly educated people, advised by experts and having at their disposal vast amounts of statistical data, not available and probably not understandable, by ordinary citizens.
Great things were expected from centrally planned economies. Their early failings were brushed aside as "the growing pains" of "a new society."
But, when centrally planned economies lagged behind free market economies for decade after decade, eventually even socialist and communist governments began to free their economies from many, if not most, of the government controls under central planning.
Almost invariably, these economies then took off with much higher economic growth rates China and India being the most prominent examples.
But look at the implications of the failure of central planning and the success of letting "the market" that is, millions of people who are nowhere close to being experts make the decisions as to what is to be produced and by whom.
How can it be that people with postgraduate degrees, people backed by the power of government and drawing on experts of all sorts, failed to do as well as masses of people of the sort routinely disdained by intellectuals?
What could be the reason? And does that reason apply in other contexts besides the economy?
One easy to understand reason is that central planners in the days of the Soviet Union had to set over 24 million prices. Nobody is capable of setting and changing 24 million prices in a way that will direct resources and output in an efficient manner.
For that, each of the 24 million prices would have to be weighed and set against each of the other 24 million prices. in order to provide incentives for resources to go where they were most in demand by producers and output to go where it was most in demand by consumers.
In a market economy, however, nobody has to take on such an impossible task. Each producer and each consumer need only be concerned with the relatively few prices relevant to their own decisions, with coordination of the economy being left to supply and demand.
In short, amateurs were able to outperform professionals in the economy because the amateurs did not take on tasks beyond the capability of any human being or any manageable group of human beings.
Put differently, "expertise" includes only a small band of knowledge out of the vast spectrum of knowledge required for dealing with many real world complications.
Nothing is easier than for experts with that small band of knowledge to imagine that they are so much wiser than others. Central planning is only the most demonstrable failure of such thinking. The disasters from other kinds of social engineering involve much the same problem.
Surgeons succeed because they stick to surgery. But if we were to put surgeons in control of commodity speculation, criminal justice and rocket science, they would probably fail as disastrously as central planners.
You made it. :)
The same could be said about Freepers and the Pajamamedia outdoing “professional” journalists. Dan Rather wishes it weren’t true. Now some of us are focused on Obama’s birth certificate forgery and the MSM is in deep silence/whistling past the graveyard mode.
A child who is home schooled, on average, is a different kind of child than one who goes to government schools.
Most important, the child who is home schooled has highly motivated parents. The child shares the genetics and the values of the dedicated, hard-working parents. Many kids in the government schools, on the other hand, have absent and/or unmotivated parents.
It’s not necessarily the teachers who are bad, it’s the self-selection into homeschooling or into government schools that makes the difference.
“When amateurs outperform professionals, there is something wrong with that profession”
That is why acting is not a profession. If a 9 year old girl(Tatum O’Neil) or a first time actor practicing physician(Dith Prang)can win the ultimate of awards, how difficult is that “profession”.
Right on the money. It probably wouldn’t be that way if professional journalists were objective and honest, but...
There is obviously something wrong with the “professional” (ie, government) system if the parents who are dedicated and involved and care about their children’s education will not choose that system, often at great personal expense and sacrifice.
Excellent point. The overwhelming majority of home schooled kids have parents that really care and are willing to make that sacrifice. Those kids have a big advantage to start with over the kid whose parents use schools as day care.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the paradigm and geopolitical/culture under which the public education system was created and nurtured expired a LONG time ago.
Public schools are obsolete.
Radio killed the Rock Star and the Internet (supercharged by google) killed public schools. They just don’t know it yet.
>>The same could be said about Freepers and the Pajamamedia outdoing professional journalists.<<
When I first laid eyes on the thread title, that is what I though it was going to talk about.
Well, if the Oscars were based on actual acting craft, members of the Royal Shakespeare Company would win every year. They are a popularity contest for insiders, not a professional award.
So true, the internet makes home schooling much easier. I have the world at my fingertips. Computers in general help, too, with the tremendous variety of CD Roms available on each subject, video streaming, satellite schools. . .
I know a student who was majoring in chemistry and wanted to teach chemistry in high school. Despite having taken rigorous chemistry, math and physics classes for her chemistry major she was still required to take a bonehead science class for teachers in order to get her teaching degree. Sadly a student who only took this bonehead science class would be fully qualified to teach high school chemistry in many states.
No wonder our students do so poorly.
Many years ago it was easy for everyone to know who the best actors were without any awards, now I wonder if there are any good ones. :)
Yep. Imagine the government literally PAYING FOR a high speed internet connection to every home with school age children as well as a FREE COMPUTER and Base Station.
Instead of $10k a year, it would be around $1500 and the quality of education each child gets would be determined by the involvement of the parents, or lack thereof. This is putting responsibility and control back in the parents hands, where it belongs.
But what ever would we do without those professional politicians selflessly guiding us through our pathetic, hum-drum little lives?
I love to read Dr. Sowell’s columns regarding educators and the elitism that exists in higher learning, he pulls no punches.
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