Posted by: arieliondotcom | December 11, 2009

Acceptable Failure

As I continue to investigate the issue of Subject Matter Expertise and
along the lines of my previous thoughts “The Velveteen Expert”, I’ve
been considering: What is acceptable failure? And by “acceptable” I
don’t mean in the standard sense of passing a course. Most of us have
rubrics or standards for that. No, my question is acceptable in the
ethical sense.

Would we condone any parent saying the following? “It’s nice of you to
be concerned about my child not passing your class, but I don’t believe
these things should be forced. I believe he should be exposed to as
many possible answers as possible and choose the one he’s most
comfortable with. So if he says that 2+2 = 5 I don’t have a problem
with that. And neither should you.”

And what expert would be telling him the “right” answer anyway? As I
said previously it is my belief that society and culture internationally
are trending toward choosing their experts not on factual knowledge but
on what levels of risk those seeking expertise are willing to accept for
their particular need. In other words, the less competent in terms of
suturing success but more comforting doctor is chosen as the “expert”
over the more technically competent but brusque surgeon. Credentials
aren’t so important as credibility, and in the literal sense of someone
in whom one can believe.

Although most would still say the statement of the parent above is
ludicrous we’re not far from the time when it may be acceptable. And,
even more, when relativist philosophy trumps statistical data every
time. Yet, ironically, the most important philosophy of all, religion,
the estate of eternity, is deemed as irrelevant. In seeking to manage knowledge we are quick to say “We don’t know what we don’t know”, and yet most don’t allow that there is an intelligence infinitely above their own unless they accept there is, and that
reality and knowledge beyond their own acceptance is not based on their
perception of it but exists in its own right.

It seems only right to demand a child admit that 2 apples plus 2 apples
equals four apples and not allowing him to say “But those are only the
apples you can SEE! What if there are apples you CAN’T see between
them?” (as I did as a kindergarten student, which explains a lot…a
Quantum Theorist but I didn’t know it). And yet when it comes to the
status of the soul such adamance is unacceptable.

I wonder if we don’t owe the person in the casket as much consideration
as the person in the classroom and allow that there are absolutes that
cannot be ceded to choice but must, in matters of statistics and the
soul, be accepted.

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