Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Expert (09/05/13)
TITLE: Your Creds Please
By Cheryl von Drehle
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Brian plops onto the sofa to watch a televised panel discussion for their political science class. The subject is developing a successful foreign policy in Somalia.
An anonymous arms-dealing pirate, with blurred face and disguised voice, defends his career choice: “We are the poorest nation on earth. Do you think there is any other hope for me? We are young, uneducated and poor. This is my only hope in life.”
“Wow,” Val says, hurrying into the living room to join Brian. “Now there’s a close up and personal view of things. Not that I condone what he does, but still….”
Next, a missionary adds her insight, based on the plight of Somalian orphans: “We struggle to feed and medically treat thousands of children who have lost their parents in the ongoing wars. But God provides resources and help just when we think our mission is hopeless.”
“She’s doing something a little more positive.” Brian smiles at Valerie as she playfully punches his shoulder.
“Shh, watch,” she says.
A foreign embassy worker weighs in on the complexities of negotiating with weak governments: “Somalia is essentially in anarchy. We need to be very careful whom we support, as historically we have sometimes picked the wrong side.”
“Good point,” Brian says. “You don’t hear a government worker admit that very often.”
A native community worker catalogs small successes in developing micro businesses for widows: “helping these abandoned women to purchase raw materials and transform them into saleable goods offers hope and stability to younger people who are now dependent on them.”
“I really like her,” Valerie says. “I’ve read some about this micro business movement.”
And then the inevitable happens. The moderator veers the conversation away from the ground level participants to get the truth on the subject.
He announces proudly, “We are very fortunate to have with us today an EXPERT to address these difficult international problems.”
This turns out to be a tenured professor. She chairs the International Poverty Studies Department at a top tier university; has authored numerous journal articles on the politics of poverty; and consults for the head of the Washington Bureau of Overseas Overseers.
“So, Patricia, what is your take on this Somalian situation?” the moderator rapturously intones.
“Jeffrey,” Patricia launches into the subject, “I have been analyzing the data from Somalia for years. I have written several scholarly works on the various hindrances that enmesh the Somalian people in webs of poverty and violence. While all your guest panelists are obviously well intentioned, they are a bit naïve. It is much more complex. Here is what we need to be doing….”
“Hold that thought, Patricia. We need to go to a station break. We will be right back for your expert opinion.”
Valerie picks up the conversation on her way back to the kitchen. “Oh good grief. Now we get the real truth from some expert? I’m going to finish making lunch.”
Brian follows her. “So, do you think this expert has even been to Somalia?”
“Good question. I don’t know. I guess she seems smart enough. Well educated and at least book knowledgeable.”
Valerie turns to spreading more peanut butter on her whole wheat toast while Brian continues.
“Yeah, but really, what gives her more authority than the people who are living the experience and doing something? Seems like experts are everywhere, and they get the final say in everything these days.”
Valerie heads back into the living room with a plateful of sandwiches and chips.
“Well, she probably does know something. I think what really irritates me is the way she has to be introduced as the “expert.” Like that label is supposed to elevate her opinions and make her the most right one. Why can’t she just state her credentials and let us decide for ourselves whether her ideas have any merit?”
“I guess just like everything else in life, we need to examine all the facts for ourselves to see what is true.” Brian winks at her.
Valerie grins. “Well, now there is a right on expert opinion.”
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