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Don’t Assume I’m Smarter Than My Contractor

“So, I figured I’d ask you,” said my contractor. “You’re a lot smarter than me and—”

That’s when I stopped him.

Tom knows I am a college professor, and he wanted to ask my advice on his daughter’s education. He’s an ex-Marine who never went to college. It makes sense to ask an educator for advice about education, but why does that make me smarter?

I thought about all the times I’ve asked Tom’s advice about the house we are renovating, and about all the times he answered with a tone that implied, “Well, obviously you should…”

“Tom,” I said, “I wouldn’t say I’m smarter than you. It depends on the topic.”

He smiled politely and moved on to his question.

But even if he dismissed my objection as perfunctory, I can’t let it go. Why does our culture trivialize nonacademic intelligence and knowledge?

I think the existing structure of schooling plays a big part.

Why does our culture trivialize nonacademic intelligence and knowledge?

Fantasy Football

Let me tell another story, this one from my days as a high school special educator. I was teaching a study-skills class to students with learning disabilities. Partly, this course provided students extra time on assignments for other classes. One day, I sent two students to the library to work on a written project assigned for another course. About 10 minutes later, I received a call from the school librarian.

“You should come up here and get these kids, because they are off task and disturbing others!”

When I got to the library, I didn’t want to confront my students immediately. I wanted to see how, exactly, they were being disruptive.

What were they doing? Adjusting their fantasy football rosters.

As anyone who’s really played fantasy football knows, adjusting your weekly roster involves contemplating a lot of statistics: What are this player’s chance…

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