Thursday, September 20, 2012

Matthew Crawford
on making judgments

Exactly right:

The experienced mind can get good at integrating an extraordinarily large number of variables and detecting a coherent pattern. It is the pattern that is attended to, not the individual variables. Our ability to make good judgments is holistic in character, and arises from repeated confrontations with real things: comprehensive entities that are grasped all at once, in a manner that may be incapable of explicit articulation. The tacit dimension of knowledge puts limits on the reduction of jobs to rule following.

Matthew B. Crawford, Shop Class as Soul Craft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work (New York: Penguin, 2009).
Notice that Crawford is not saying that the reasons for a judgment may be beyond articulation: it’s the manner in which one grasps things “all at once” that may be beyond articulation.

In my line of business, the reduction of work to rule-following is probably best seen in the mechanical process of filling in squares on a grading rubric. Judgment can certainly be arbitrary or faulty, but a rubric is no guard against faulty judgment. And I would suggest that no rubric can so detailed as to account for every feature that might (and ought to) make a difference in one’s judgment. The rubric is a device that minimizes — or better, pretends to minimize — the necessary work of judgment. The rubric is a product of the same mindset that identifies rather than chooses a student to receive, say, a scholarship.

Other Shop Class as Soul Craft posts
On higher education
On problems

[It was this item that prompted me to get around to writing this post.]

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