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272 pages, Pocket Book
First published April 27, 2017
The result [of recent social changes and universal education] has not been a greater respect for knowledge, but the growth of an irrational conviction among Americans that everyone is as smart as everyone else…. We now live in a society where the acquisition of even a little learning is the endpoint, rather than the beginning, of education. And this is a dangerous thing. (7)
Higher education is supposed to cure us of the false belief that everyone is as smart as everyone else.
Unfortunately, in the twenty-first century the effect of widespread college attendance is just the opposite: the great number of people who have been in or near a college think of themselves as educated peers of even the most accomplished scholars and experts.
College is no longer a time devoted to learning and personal maturation; instead the stampede of young Americans into college and the consequent competition for their tuition dollars have produced a consumer-oriented experience in which students learn, above all else, that the customer is always right.
Pair [incompetent and self-unaware] people with experts, and, predictably enough, misery results. The lack of metacognition sets up a vicious loop, in which people who don’t know much about a subject do not know when they’re in over their head talking with an expert on that subject. An argument ensues, but people who have no idea how to make a logical argument cannot realize when they’re failing to make a logical argument. In short order, the expert is frustrated and the layperson is insulted. Everyone walks away angry.
The Dunning-Kruger Effect, in sum, means that the dumber you are, the more confident you are that you're not actually dumb. Dunning and Kruger more gently label such people as "unskilled" or "incompetent".