What does a recent education grad have to say to the world? Last year I felt sheepish in a room full of teachers as I gave a presentation at the annual Social Studies professional development day on how to find and use primary sources in Canadian history. At least they were paid to be there.

Dorothy Sayers said it best in 1947. We are all self-proclaimed experts now in the hyper-information age. She begins her well-known essay on the classical curriculum, The Lost Tools of Learning:

“That I, whose experience of teaching is extremely limited, should presume to discuss education is a matter, surely, that calls for no apology. It is a kind of behavior to which the present climate of opinion is wholly favorable. Bishops air their opinions about economics; biologists, about metaphysics; inorganic chemists, about theology; the most irrelevant people are appointed to highly technical ministries; and plain, blunt men write to the papers to say that Epstein and Picasso do not know how to draw. Up to a certain point, and provided the the criticisms are made with a reasonable modesty, these activities are commendable. Too much specialization is not a good thing. There is also one excellent reason why the veriest amateur may feel entitled to have an opinion about education. For if we are not all professional teachers, we have all, at some time or another, been taught. Even if we learnt nothing–perhaps in particular if we learnt nothing–our contribution to the discussion may have a potential value.”

It’s also a good rhetorical strategy to feign as much ignorance as possible. It works especially well, maybe too well, in our postmodern age where each of us is said to have our own “values.” False humility is the sign of our times, since we all know nothing and everything at the same time. The task then is to educate students in the competence of judging better arguments from worse, and meaningful rhetoric from the shallow.