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Thoughts Online Magazine
Collected Articles on Culture & Politics
Ten Years 
14th-Aug-2006 09:49 am
The Good News of the day?

Everyone is just ten years away from being an expert in a field they do not know now but find fascinating enough to dedicate time to.

Why is this good news? Because it means that "talent" is not the key: application is.

The preponderance of psychological evidence indicates that experts are made, not born. What is more, the demonstrated ability to turn a child q uickly into an expert--in chess, music and a host of other subjects--sets a clear challenge before the schools. Can educators find ways to encourage students to engage in the kind of effortful study that will improve their reading and math skills? Roland G. Fryer, Jr., an economist at Harvard University, has experimented with offering monetary rewards to motivate students in underperforming schools in New York City and Dallas. In one ongoing program in New York, for example, teachers test the students every three weeks and award small amounts--on the order of $10 or $20--to those who score well. The early results have been promising. Instead of perpetually pondering the question, "Why can't Johnny read?" perhaps educators should ask, "Why should there be anything in the world he can't learn to do?"

Read the article. Then ask yourself the key question:

What would you like to be an expert on in 10 years?
14th-Aug-2006 06:36 pm (UTC)
Oh yeah? And who supplies the drive to take ten years working hard at something, and the honesty to discard fundamental errors? As it happens, I am an expert in a couple of fields, but I think the issue is by no means that simple. You can just as easily spend ten years turning yourself into Dan Brown - a man with no understanding of events and a completely slanted view of facts.
19th-Aug-2006 11:19 pm (UTC) - Ten Years
Interest can be supplied by anyone who wants to. A moral compass, as I have noted before, is not something that everyone is interested in. See posts on medical ethics, bioethics, and similar frauds on the public. I have no difficulty criticizing those who are not interested in truth, but in hiding from it (a la Mr. Brown). Alternatively, one could publish a paper and hide the data and algorithm from scrutiny in hopes of avoiding criticism, like Mr. Mann, the "climate scientist" who gave us the hockey stick, and who has refused to listen to criticisms of his work.

But ten years of interested application is the recipie, and it has appropriate studies behind it. Most fields, from violin, to mathematics, to law, have objective correlatives that will supply occasions for reflection to anyone open to truth. The interest in a field is not enough, even with objective correlatives, to supply truth to those who want to be closed to it (see Noam Chomsky and Paul Krugman, each of whom is acknowledged by many to be an expert, both of whom have problems in this area). You DO become an expert. But closure to truth just ensures that you remain a frustrated one, and there is little I can do about that beyond recommending either religion or proper philosophy as ways to cleanse the perceptions.
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