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In appreciation of expertise

Like the rest of the country, it seems, we took on a remodeling project here at the CFO office in Springfield. I’ve never undertaken such a project personally or professionally, and for good reason.

I had a minister friend who once told me, “I’ll never do a building project or capital campaign — my faith isn’t strong enough.” Amen to that! This is not an expertise that I have. It takes me three trips to the hardware store on a Saturday just to change a light bulb.

We are now 14 years into occupying this building. As our staff has grown along with our assets and funds, we have outgrown our original capacity. Having many staff members working from home during the pandemic gave us a great opportunity to bring in a construction crew, so we jumped in.

The process is amazing to watch. I’ve watched these workers start with masking tape on the floor as an outline, then transform it daily into this re-creation of the second floor that seems like it’s always been like this.

It’s been impressive … well, for me, it’s been truly amazing. These are professionals. They’re craftsmen. They know what they’re doing. The dry wall guys walk around on stilts more gracefully than I walk down stairs.

It’s been a treat for me just to watch the fruits of their crafts come to life day by day, and I have a new appreciation of those skills required — just as I now have a greater appreciation of the skill, dedication and experience of the health-care workers and teachers since the start of the pandemic.

I contrast that, however, with what I hear so often about health policy, public policy and education policy, to name a few. Too often, I hear comments like: “I know better than those people” or “I read it on the internet.” Sadly, we have lost a great deal of respect and appreciation for our “experts.”

In his book, “The Death of Expertise,” scholar Tom Nichols writes: “To reject the advice of experts is to assert autonomy, a way for Americans to insulate their increasingly fragile egos from ever being told they’re wrong about anything. All things are knowable and every opinion on any subject is as good as any other.” This ego-centric attitude has not served us well — especially in this current crisis.

I’m thankful for the professionals who build things, and not the critics from the cheap seats that tear things down. I’m grateful for the health-care workers who sacrifice so much to comfort and heal in contrast to those who deepen wounds. I appreciate teachers who are dedicated to filling our children’s heads with knowledge and hope, rather than darkening their hearts with doubt and cynicism. And I’m so impressed by our community leaders, with their expertise on public health and public policy, who have dedicated their lives for the betterment of all.

I hope we, as a nation, can rediscover an appreciation for expertise.

Without such expertise, I’d be making my 3,487th trip to the hardware store by now, getting more masking tape to stick on the floor.

Brian Fogle is the President and CEO of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks.

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