Sunday, October 9, 2011

Technician, or Magician: Can You Tell the Difference?

… he used to say, Hocus pocus, tontus talontus, vade celeriter jubeo, a dark composure of words, to blinde the eyes of the beholders, to make his Trick pass the more currently without discovery ... — Thomas Ady, A Candle in the Dark, 1656
If baldness treatments really work then why does a wealthy man like Donald Trump still have problems? If Hollywood spas and diets really work, then why are they visited again and again by pretty much the same movie stars? If prisons help to reduce crime, why is the American prison population the largest in the world and still growing?

If pious declarations of Faith mean anything then
a. why is the Bible Belt plagued by “acts of God” so very much more than the Sin Cities of this country; and
b. why are many of the previously unsuccessful “prophets” of the End Time still pushing their wares?
Why do even “the best” hospitals and universities closely guard data as to their successes and failures? Why does the popularity of our political, economic and psychological pundits contribute directly to the failure of their predictions? (See Philip E. Tetlock, Expert Political Judgment)

What is the difference between a magician (an illusionist) and a technician? It is not, merely, that one wears stage clothes and the other, "scientific" garb, e.g. a stethoscope, a loupe or a sheepskin. The important difference is whether the causes and effects they believe to be at work are, in fact, at work.

People everywhere show a desperate willingness to believe in some kind of causal connection, a hope that somebody, somewhere knows what and how to do something. Many sincere people, possessed by one or another blinding Faith, stumble about in search for answers. But their very Faith often makes it impossible even to carefully examine the “answers” they encounter.

If private and parochial schools are so much better than public schools, why don’t the better students of the former consistently beat out those of the latter? Why are schools, already crammed full of gimcracks and geegaws from a thousand different manufacturers and universities, nonetheless perpetually in “need” of reform?

How many school "reformers" turn out to be little more than illusionists? How much talent, hope and money has been wasted pursuing their illusions?

For references and to examine these issues further, see The Teacher as Technician


Cordially
--- EGR