Educated (4): shows and telling

This is the missing thought from Handwriting:

There are plenty of things that appear to signify education (handwriting, certificates, vocabulary, waffley assertions, accent (sadly), name-dropping, [add yours here]) which might be correlated to education in one way or another but aren’t the same thing at all.

These things can be used to put on a show of being educated, either as a deliberate deception or unwittingly – and people might be taken in.

I’m reminded of the story of a parent* who took their child to the doctor and came away delighted with the thoroughness of the treatment they received. There was a sheet of test results and a bag of medicine. It looked (to them) like excellent value… until, as they asked a friend of mine to explain the test results, it emerged that the doctor had conducted almost none of the tests required to generate the “results”, and had simply written down some numbers within the normal range for each item. Medicine had been performed, but not really done.

Unscrupulous mechanics, plumbers, computer repair people, lawyers and investment advisors do the same sort of thing.

In the absence of enough of an education to understand how something works (back to structural literacy) or the ability to quickly find out, it’s hard to recognise the trick – doubly hard if uncertainty is coupled with an expectation of not understanding, or with feelings of embarrassment or shame.

So I suggest that “educated” includes some element of smarts and skepticism, and enough of a grounding in enough things** to spot a would-be bamboozler in action and (ideally) to be able to dismantle the illusion for others when necessary. The second part is hard, and doing it gracefully harder still.

*Sorry, vague.
**Structural literacy again

I'd love to hear your thoughts and recommended resources...