Jane Haddam’s WordPress weblog

Expert Bullying

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Well, of course, JD is right–I meant to say that sensible regulation can decrease the frequency of large market corrections by insisting on prudence in at least some areas. 

And this morning, my mind is generally on the necessity of having somebody make decisions for you when you cannot.  I know it’s necessary, and since my father died–and made a mess of nearly everything in staying himself, and largely singular, all the way through it–I’ve gone to a lot of trouble to make sure my children and a couple of close friends have all the access and authorization they need if anything happens to me.

But being that person for my mother is awful, and I don’t even have all that many decisions to make at this point.

But, that said–

I don’t have a problem with what science can convince the masses to do.

I have a problem with scientists and others going, “I’m right, and your ignornant, so no matter what you want, we’re going to make you do what I want you to do.”

The old saying is experts should be on tap, not on top–they should give advice, and the rest of us should decide whether to take it or not.

That’s especially true of individuals and individual lives and behavior, and it’s precisely in those areas where experts seem to be increasingly on top.

In schools, in social service departments, even in workplaces sometimes, rules about private life are put in place and enforced without even a nod to the consent of the governed. 

Parents often have to fight long and hard against an educational and social work establishment bent on imposing expert advice on their families even when the parents object.

That’s what happened with Ritalin in the state of Connecticut back in the late Eighties and early Nineties, when parents were threatened with having their children placed in foster care if they didn’t agree to drug them for their “ADHD.”

I put the acronym in quotes for good reason.  There is in fact no biological evidence that the “disorder” even exists, and most of the kids “diagnosed” with it were boys who wouldn’t sit still and do what they were told in a heavily feminized environment that virtually no other country expects their boys to tolerate.

(In Japan, the need of boys for frequent and vigorous physical evidence is taken so for granted that classes in elementary schools break every forty minutes to give them a chance to run around.)

What’s more, virtually everything claimed for Ritalin was false–it did in fact work exactly the same on all children, not just with those with ADHD; and there was no way to tell if it was “safe.” 

In fact, it will be another twenty to forty years before we know what the effects of all that Ritalin have been on the development and long term health of the children subjected to it.

If state legislators had tried to pass laws saying that parents would be guilty of “neglect” if they refused to put their children on Ritalin, such laws would never have passed.  The masses did not, in fact, agree to any such thing.

It wasn’t the masses, but the experts, and their surrogates in the helping professions, who decided to impose that regime on Connecticut families–we’re the experts, we know better than you, if you won’t take our advice we have the right to force it on you.

It took several law suits to bring an end to this nonsense, and the lawsuits were filed by relatively wealthy families on the Gold Coast.  If this particular expert bullying had fallen only on poor families, the chances are that it would still be with us.

In fact, there’s lots of expert bullying that is imposed on poor families, often for decades, without correction.

Mooney and Kirshenbaum’s book is about the increasing refusal of Americans to defer to scientific opinion–getting “the masses” to agree when they won’t is their entire point.

“The sky is falling,!”  they moan.  “People no longer think we’re right all the time!”

Yes, well.

Mooney and Kirshenbaum pine for the day when science was held in high esteen and Americans took scientific pronouncements as facts just because scientists made them.

That wasn’t going to last past the point when governments and agencies decided that if it was science, it circumvented the democratic process.

And, in spite of Hofstadter, and Mooney and Kirshenbaun, and even Susan Jacoby–that refusal to bow to experts just because they’re experts is the good news.

Even if if sometimes results in mistaken judgments.

Written by janeh

August 18th, 2010 at 6:52 am

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses to 'Expert Bullying'

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  1. Hmmm. Another reason why we NEED those “relatively wealthy” families. The experts and their accomplices have a much easier time of it with people who can’t afford publicity, time off from work and lawyers’ fees.

    Still, compared with other oubreaks of expertitis, we may have lucked out over Ritalin. Looks as though no one was sterilized, for instance, nor did long prison stretches. (I missed eugenics and “recovered memory” in yesterday’s “Best of Expert Opinion.”)


    18 Aug 10 at 4:07 pm

  2. Yeah, I can tell you that it is very hard to be one of the experts, and a public school employee, when you are a strict civil libertarian. I spent more time explaining to teachers and counselors and principals why we *couldn’t* (not to mention *shouldn’t*) coerce parents into doing what we thought was right than you would believe!



    18 Aug 10 at 5:39 pm

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