Thursday, July 14, 2005

Why Professors are Dumb

I've had a discussion going with Scott Grosnell over at Pros and Cons about whether the Supreme Court should be limited to lawyers as justices. I've left another comment on his site, but it seems that the discussion is winding down to him saying that since the Court deals with important issues, we really want focused specialists deciding them, and me saying that since the Court deals with important issues, we need a broad spectrum of specialties. Of course, as a professor, I work in a place that puts a premium on having lots of specialists from all sorts of fields (a university), rather than concentrating specialists focused on particular fields (like at a technical college), so perhaps that is biasing my reasoning.

In a nearly unrelated note, though, I realized why professors seem to dumb to people around them, thus giving rise to images like "The Absent-Minded Professor" and "The Nutty Professor." Mr. Grosnell wrote:

"For obvious reasons, the theologans should not be making public policy and law."

Here we see why professors are dumb. I think he is right to characterize the reasons behind that statement as "obvious" ... but they aren't obvious to me. Ask the average Joe on the street, and he'd say, "Of course. That's obvious." Ask a professor, and he'll look puzzled and say, "Why not? Aren't theologians part of the 'public' in 'public policy?' Aren't they bound by the law?"

It's that dang Socrates. He started it all with all those dumb questions.


  1. Anonymous2:05 PM

    Dr.: Your post made me think that perhaps I should not have said "obviously." Yes, my statement would be obvious the average person inclined to read a blog like Pros and Cons, but not necessarily to the "man on the street." In any case, I've enjoyed our discussion immensely!

    Perhaps Dr. Taylor could help you with the trackbacks issue. He's been invaluable to me with technical issues and such.

  2. Would you suppose that anyone can teach medieval literature? Some well educated person, say a lawyer, bright, but without any special preperation in the era, the culture, linguistics, and bringing a different form of text analysis to the subject. Certainly they may have interesting observations to make, but how to tell if they are valid? Socrates lived in a society where offices were filled by lottery, yet condemned it. Both Plato and Xenophon relate his thoughts on the subject of equality. Courts as well. Socrates may well be a handy model for the scholar, but he seems a poor model for much else (Xenophon tells us he was a good soldier), and that seems to be the point. One profession does not easily substitute for another.

  3. Of course not anyone could teach medieval literature -- but not anyone could teach law, either. We are not talking about teaching in a subject. We are discussing ruling.

    The subtext in your comment seems to be that some are bred for ruling (lawyers), and some are bred for following (the rest of us). I'm sure that's not at all what you meant -- or at least I hope not. If it is, I must respectfully disagree.