Fake Out

Book Cover of The Death of Expertise

The Death of Expertise by Tom Nichols
Oxford University Press, March 1, 2017

"But how do we know Caesar really even existed?" While the question could be probing how we obtain knowledge, it also implies a distrust of history books, of teachers, and of the entire Western tradition. But in The Death of Expertise, Tom Nichols claims that this arrogant skepticism is not isolated but instead growing. We no longer view expertise as an ideal, especially as the gulf grows between experts and citizens. Although Nichols concedes that human nature itself causes some resistance, he argues that the problem now deepens for three concurrent reasons: higher education treats its students as customers; endless information is available instantaneously; and journalism entertains rather than informs. These circumstances have endowed us with a willful and arrogant ignorance. Much like his ideal of an expert, Nichols offers no single solution but rather insight into the problem. The death of expertise should matter to and inform our school curricula, especially as we attempt to develop informed citizens. We have a responsibility not only to make our students savvy to "fake news," but also to avoid cultivating arrogant skepticism. Moreover, we need to be mindful of how the shape of education can implicitly value (or not) expertise. In short, we need to make sure the education we provide doesn’t undermine our own expertise as educators.

Submitted By: Cynthia Swanson, Westminster School, Atlanta, GA

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