If you’ve ever considered yourself an expert (or at least, better than average) at an activity, you’ve likely felt this. It’s the feeling of hearing someone talk about the activity you know so well, and knowing that they have little idea of what they are talking about compared to yourself. When this happens, I immediately start thinking about how much better I would be at in explaining a concept.
This is an elitist attitude, plain and simple. I don’t regard it as a good thing, but I feel like this quite often.
For example, I am a runner that runs quite often (about 110km per week), and so I almost immediately begin shaking my head when someone gives “expert” advice when they themselves only run twenty kilometres a week. When this happens, I become incredulous, wondering how they can respond with such suggestions when they barely run to begin with.
However, a more distressing example involves school. As a student in the pure science program, I’ve received this constant expectation that science students were smarter than those in other programs. As a result, I’ve caught myself adopting elitist attitudes when listening to someone else (who does not have a background in science) discuss science as if they are an expert. Why are they talking about science when they barely understand it? is a question I would ask myself.
I’m not proud of this default habit, and so I’ve been working on keeping more of an open mind. Instead of trying to outright dismiss what others are saying, I partake in a much more challenging endeavour: how is this person reaching those conclusions from their experience?
I can agree that the science is sometimes a little dubious, but that is the nature of spreading information. I go into science because I want to learn more. Therefore, it’s expected that I know what I am talking about. However, we should not expect the opposite to be true. Doing so causes us to form a strong bias for previous experience in science, taking away from those without a rigorous scientific background and may still have something to share.
Let’s not adopt an elitist attitude merely because educational institutions silo programs instead of integrating them.