Re: OVC-discuss Digest, Vol 25, Issue 46

From: Jerry Lobdill <lobdillj_at_charter_dot_net>
Date: Tue Nov 28 2006 - 13:25:13 CST

At 12:15 PM 11/28/2006, charlie strauss wrote:

>I'm feeling like a snob even trying to reply to this but this comment
>is so preposterous it makes me wince.

Since you put it that way, I have no choice but to reply. :-)

>Since were on the subject of
>statistics it seems to me that statistically it's more likely that
>some one with degree in mathematics would know about statistics then
>someone without so it's not such a bad criteria. I've known a few
>folks who did not really deserve their pHd, but the measure of that
>is not what they know about "Gamma Funtions". The difference
>between a Masters degree and a PhD is that a Master is someone who
>has shown that they have been educated to mastery of a subject. A
>pHD goes not to improved subject matter mastery but one has proven
>one is capable of teaching yourself whatever you need to solve a
>problem. The reason pHD holders are sought after is that they may
>not know how to use a Gamma Function but that they demonstrated
>competence in training themsleves so you know they can probably
>figure it out if they need to.

Yeah, well, as someone who has worked with and supervised researchers
at all three levels of college education I can tell you that that's a
nice theory, but it is so rarely realistic that it's hardly worth
discussing. PhDs do, however, frequently have an excess of arrogance
and hubris which sometimes tends to make them bloviate and come up
with wrong answers. I mentioned the Gamma function and its
elementary properties only as an example of the sort of things that
people who manipulate mathematical equations, derive formulas, and
solve problems need to be familiar and comfortable with (not just
capable of figuring out if they have to). Someone who doesn't have
that facility with the tools of the trade is no better on a panel
like we're discussing than an activist with a lot of enthusiasm for
democracy, it seems to me. And to focus on the credential is a mistake.

>As I always tell the graduate
>student's I've mentored: anyone can start working on a novel problem,
>when you figure out how to finish working on it you get your pHD. If
>it's easy to recognize when a problem has been solved then, with
>obvious exceptions, it may not have been that hard a problem. A
>pHD's education is about carving a neat, answerable problem, out of a
>larger messy problem, not knowing more tools.
>That said, I don't think putting educational credentials in a legal
>document is going to fly simply because it does smack of intellectual
>snobbery and elitism and democracy don't mix.

Well, then, I think we agree more than your first sentence would indicate.

>It would however make
>an excellent best practices document and hopefully will find it's way
>into policy.
>Now I'm going to go shower since my elitist guilt complex is making
>me feel all clammy :-)

As well it should! :-)

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Received on Thu Nov 30 23:17:15 2006

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