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“I’m no expert, but…”

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When people were asked if they have a higher opinion of Congress or other typically disliked things, voters said they had a higher opinion of root canals, cockroaches, NFL replacement refs, and the band Nickelback, according to Public Policy Polling. Much of this opinion is due to a myth that Congress doesn’t do anything, said Paulina, Rippere, Ph.D.

“While there are many reasons for this dysfunction, sitting around their offices in Washington and going on an extended vacay is not one of them,” Rippere said.

This and other government myths were challenged and discussed along with other perspectives and fields at the sixth annual panel presentation hosted by the College of Arts and Colleges.

In Terry Concert Hall at 6 p.m. on March 1, professors from different disciplines gave their view of American anti-intellectualism. The presentation “I’m No Expert, But…” examined the decline of expertise in what U.S. Naval War College professor Tom Nichols describes as a “Google fueled, Wikipedia-based, blog-sodden collapse of any division between professionals and laymen, students and teachers, knowers and wonderers.” Each speaker had approximately ten minutes to address the topic from his perspective.

“This [panel discussion] is the definition of liberal arts,” said Douglas Hazzard, Ph.D., Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “This is the strength and I would say the essence of the American education system.”

The first panelists, Nisse Goldberg, Ph.D., and Colleen Wilson, Ph.D., presented “What Do You Know, Really?” looking at the process of learning and the role of experts to teach students to think and question and “to be open to different viewpoints,” Goldberg said.

“Challenge the stuff you know,” Wilson said. “Push these experts. Push us to answer questions and to engage with you. You should never go to sleep that night with the same thought you had that morning.”

The second panelist, Erich Freiburger, Ph.D. presented on “Modern Liberal Democracy and the Question of Knowledge” which looked at a world where science and truth becomes lost in the “den of relativism where all opinions are created equal.” When a question was posed asking how one can choose a person who can effectively lead the country, Freiburger responded with “you get a liberal arts education.”

Other panelists included Erika Ward, Ph.D. who challenged students to stop “refusing to be fluent” in math, data and statistics, and Andy Ouillette, Ph.D., who showed examples of strategies people use to “downplay evidence and science.”

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“I’m no expert, but…”