O Dunning! O Kruger!

While moaning about the state of affairs we find ourselves in at the present time (and indeed about the present day affairs of state) to an old student who has since fled these shores, I learned that what I felt were original and acute perceptions of why things at JNU were the way they were had a name: the Dunning-Kruger syndrome.

To quote Wikipedia (which calls it the D-K effect, but I prefer syndrome, given that we are experiencing a near melt-down), “the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others.”


Which succinctly sums up the current situation at JNU, and also sort of explains why it is that the majority of the academic staff at JNU appear to be so much at sea at the present time. There is no point in explaining to the very deaf: those, as the adage puts it, that will not hear. For one thing, our line is really a very simple one, that policing at all levels does not result in academic value, and that there are better ways of achieving intellectual discipline.

Our latin forbears put it simply, verbum sapienti sat est: To the wise, a word suffices. (The phrase and its abbreviation verb. sap. was drummed into our philistine skulls by Mr Cleary, my Class IX schoolteacher.) The inability of the JNU teaching fraternity to get their point across, is really a consequence of the D-K effect. Since it has much relevance to our current situation, and I warmly recommend a slow read (or quick scan) of the Wiki entry which has many points of resonance, as when talking of their paper Why People Fail to Recognize Their Own Incompetence it is noted that “much incorrect self-assessment of competence derives from the person’s ignorance of a given activity’s standards of performance”.


The standards of performance of academic administration are high, and indeed need to be even higher. One of the problems seems to be that they don’t know that they don’t know... the refrain in the Kruger and Dunning song that was performed when the duo earned an IgNobel prize. This was part of the IgNobel ceremony’s Incompetence Opera that year. The irony, of course, is that the refrain can be applied to all sides of the argument, but let that be.

To add more would be both futile and self-defeating, so let me close by quoting (selectively) from Charles Darwin: Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.


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