I once had a boss that attended a week training course to learn hydrogeology. He proudly brought the 3-ring binder into a meeting to announce that he was now a hydrogeologist. I sat there in the meeting ticking off the classes that I had in hydrogeology like Applied Hydrogeology, Groundwater Modeling, Contaminant Transport of Pollutants, Physical Hydrogeology, Stable Isotopes in Water, one-month Hydrogeology Field Camp, Chemical Hydrogeology, and Modeling of Physical Systems. That is 24 credits of 400-hour level or graduate level classes. Up to that point, I also had 10 years of experience working primarily as a contaminant hydrogeologist up to that point. I had all the qualifications and years of experience to get the union card of being a Professional Geologist. Yet, that 32 hours of sitting in a class was enough for my former boss to proclaim that he was trained as a hydrogeologist.
We live in a society that watches a professional and believes that they could do that profession. Oh, I can be that musician. I can host that radio or tv show. The same is true now for the STEM careers. I can now be an epidemiologist or a medical doctor after spending some afternoons surfing the internet. Most of the careers is a craft. It is getting the training and then the painstaking honing over years of time. It is getting the art training and then spending years painting every day. The best way of becoming an author is writing every day they say. Most people think they can go out and play professional golf. They don’t see the hours of training every day that has lasted years to hit that little white golf ball.
I am all for people to learn more throughout their life. I am for people to better understand their environment around them. I want people to become educated to make informed decisions. I want the citizen scientist advocating for a better world. Yet, there is a craft in almost every profession these days. Ok, I am now done being on my soap box. I have to now go cook dinner because I can make it better than Bobby Flay.
Unfortunately this mentality exists in so many forms in society. You have people not appreciating professional’s work, such as artists selling their talent, but not being paid by instagram influencers or being promised “exposure” instead of monetary payment. I personally hope that most people can realize how difficult things are if they try it once for themselves, I know I personally understand how difficult things are once I experience it a bit, such as music, art, knowledge of cars, etc. There is an old Chinese saying: “On stage 10 minutes, off stage 10 years”, for the 10 minutes on stage, maybe the professional spent years perfecting his act.
It is still amazes me that people can claim to be experts on something so quickly. I feel one thing that has really contributed to this is social media (like Facebook and Twitter). People read a few articles online then publicly proclaim on their Facebook page that they are now expert on this topic. The ironic part is a lot of times the articles that these people are reading to become “experts” are often flawed and incorrect. One major example I can think of is the “mask controversy” (I put in quotation marks because it should not be a controversy). People read one article on Facebook saying that masks are not helpful and then share this as if they are now experts on this. This way of easily becoming an “expert” leads to sharing of misinformation.
It’s certainly frustrating to see people tout titles that are unearned and not acknowledge the amount of work and experience necessary to earn them. Even if you do have a degree or a quick training, you cannot just labeled yourself an expert. People work for years to earn a moniker like that. In an electrical engineering course I have had a professor say that the design for control systems is just as much of an art as it is a science. Like you said – it’s a craft. I can’t take one course and know as much about power converter control as a professor who’s studied this topic longer than I’ve been alive. Expert is a title to be carefully awarded by peers in the same field.
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