Paul’s Perambulations

June 22, 2010

Are incompetent folks too incompetent to know it, or do we teach them false self-esteem?

Filed under: Education,Politics — admin @ 8:37 am

This NYTimes article presents research that attempts to establish that incompetent people are too incompetent to realize their incompetence. The authors note that those grammatically challenged actually believe that they are good writers. Sometimes overall incompetence may be the answer, but there is another possible explanation for why incompetent writers think that they are doing so well. I posted the following response on the NYTimes Comment site. If we’ve got some folks with authority and assumed competence telling students who are incompetent in grammar that they are “coming along” “improving” “that’s better” and everything else to encourage students by giving false praise, the idea of being competent to identify incompetence becomes more complex and perhaps circular. I would say that the authority figures who are giving this false praise are showing their incompetence and that the learners are simply and appropriately learning what they are being taught. But heck, that means that most of the teachers and leaders (us?) are the incompetent ones for saying what others want to hear without regard for the facts of the matter. How well will that fly with the power structure?

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  1. Getting and keeping a job is now more akin to modern marketing and selling a product (yourself). Say how Wonderbread builds strong bodies nine ways; say how wonderful you are. I suspect that some folks know they’re losers, but today you’re not a loser until it has been established. So claim skills you don’t have. SOP. Modern marketing (which in the old days would be more accurately called lying) has become such a pervasive cultural phenomenon that folks are hardly aware of it and will not admit to it, because it’s the environment we now live in. Se there can be a larger issue here, unfortunately.

    Statistics in the original article show a regression to the mean. There is still sufficient difference between the within and among groups variability to often achieve statistical significance, but things are not as obvious as the secondary reference makes it appear. Based on the actual data, it could also be said that high-competent people significantly underestimate their capability. But authors don’t have a good explanation for this, nor does this finding generate interest or attention (which nowadays are the ultimate measures of an article’s contribution and value…ask me for operational [applied real world] measures that support this claim), so they gloss over these findings. Pick and choose.

    Comment by admin — June 24, 2010 @ 10:08 am

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