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Raheel Lakhani

Educational Technologist,

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Has specialization or focus on expertise been an advantage to us or a disadvantage?

In past, whether it was Greeks or the Muslim Empire, there was a lot of focus on eclectic knowledge. The main quest was for learning as a whole and not in different disciplines. Though a lot of categorization has come from that place, still they never concentrated on one categorization. They were well-versed in diverse things.

Is the fragmentation a sin of modern academia? or does specializations really help? how much is it needed and where/when we should avoid? Is jack of all a bad thing?

what are its implications of our education systems? what are its implications in decision-making in varied contexts?

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    Feb 27 2011: I think most would say there are both advantages and disadvantages. Thomas Kuhn established the dangers of paradigm blindness and those exploring cognitive heuristics clearly establish the falliibilities of expert judgment. That said, I am concerned that there is a kind of anti-intellectualism operating in the US that leads people to believe that their understanding of the world is valid just because it popped out of their own head. Climate change is an example. I run into many people who believe climate change is fallicious because, well, they just don't believe it. When asked for their evidence they forward clearly fallicious ideas. Some truths are more valid than others. People who have studied a given area of science for example are usually more informed than those who simply operate on "instincts". Do experts fall into self confirmation bias - absolutely. Public policy, however, should be based on the best available evidence which often is best understood by "experts". Frankly, I believe a lot of Dr. Hertz's comments are valuable but will be misconstrued and missapplied by those who fundamentally do not believe that the scientific method is useful process of understanding the world. Especially in the areas of public policy relating to science, I would rather my elected representatives seek out the advice of "experts" (albeit a diversity of this population) than to rely on their own instincts often severely colored by scientific illiteracy and religious prejudice. (E.g. climate change cannot be true because God would never let this happen to the earth - a comment I recently heard in an MBA classroom).
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      Mar 4 2011: But then climate change would not be solved alone with experts and scientists? We would need people who inspire like artists or theologians and then we would also need scientific knowledge about how to tackle the problem and then sociologists to see where the humans need to change their gears.

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