Has the world had enough of experts?

Michael Gove is not a man unduly over-burdened with – what shall we say – perspicacity.

It’s looking increasingly likely that his ‘legacy’ will, after all, turn out to be that remark he made during the referendum campaign: ‘I think the people of this country have had quite enough of experts.’

I wonder how he knew that. What he probably meant was more like, ‘I’m not much of an expert in anything myself, so I despise those who claim to be and tell me that my ideas are dangerous tosh.’ This approach certainly bore fruit in his management of education, as any teacher would be very keen to tell you.

The saloon-bar dismissal of anything which smacks of ‘elitism’ sees teaching as something which most people walking in off the street could probably have a decent stab at, an attitude now bodied forth in the recruitment of unqualified teaching assistants in free schools, academies and the like.

I’ve always rather liked experts. In many situations they are very welcome indeed. Having an eye operation; finding yourself caught in a fire; being on a plane about to land in a strong wind; these are all settings where the last thing you want to hear is the person in charge muttering that they’re not quite sure what comes next, but never mind, let’s try something my mate said might work…

I was irresistibly reminded of this as I watched Trump arriving in Washington the other day. (He’s got a private plane, this man of the people. Not a little two-seater Piper. A really big one.) And I thought: something we haven’t seen for a while has arrived in the world again. Someone – a man who, if you met him down the pub you’d dismiss as a rank bore – has become President of the USA.

There was sufficient anger, malevolence and despair in people for them to allow this. Eighty years ago it was an insignificant malcontent, fizzing with hatred and resentment.

There might be plenty of opportunities for experts to thrive in the near future. I hope they won’t be experts in estrangement, transportation and disposal.


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