Professionals – their failings


(James Fallows of ATLANTIC MONTHLY agreed with ‘just about everything’.)

Having seen amazing incompetence in my years in social work, I’ve wondered if other fields are as bad.  A look back gives us an idea:  professionals used to tell us men were superior to women, whites to nonwhites, the Depression was permanent, movies would replace radio, TV would replace movies, and we would control the weather.

During each world war they discovered women could do heavy work.  Before World War II, they told us the war could be avoided; and a year after it started, they told us the allies were defeated.  Later they told us: the 50s were the ‘end of ideology’; the early 60s was the end of economic growth and the start of excess leisure; the late 60s were a time of noble dissent; and by now we’d be on the metric system.


  1. Open classroom, new math, open enrollment, and grading fads during the 60s & 70s.  The number of students went down, but the number of ad­ministrators went up.  Spending went up six fold, but test scores went down.  Sex education was begun to combat V.D. and illegitimacy, and both went up.  Schools had to hire outsiders to show teachers how to discipline. Students were graduated functionally illiterate.  Stu­dents classified as retarded in public schools, excelled in a private school.  Sixty percent of college age youth couldn’t find the Pacific Ocean on an unmarked map.  There was anguish over public schools, and successful private     schools were ignored.

Social work

  1. Poverty programs were begun in the 60s, yet welfare rose fivefold.  Prisons with problems of rape showed X-rated movies.  There were programs to ‘cure’ prisoners, yet crime rose.  Cocaine was not considered addictive.  Workfare was called ‘genocide’, ‘slavery’. and ‘cruel and unusual punishment’.  Social programs hurt the poor more than they helped. One agency wanted to teach ‘the work ethic’ to Asian refugees – people who work circles around many Americans.  A child molester was referred to work with retarded kids (and molested them).  Sociology courses on TV were laughable.  Runaways, mental patients, derelicts, and prisoners gained exaggerated rights.  Prisoners (like the Son of Sam), faked being crazy, and got checks for being ‘mentally ill.’  Reams were written on poverty by people who were never poor nor had lived in a slum.  Professionals ‘dis­covered’ pets, plants, and humor were good for mental patients, the aged, and criminals.
  2. My experience in social work was similar:  ‘Society’ was wrong; the poor were right and unaccountable.  ‘Equality’ dropped everything to the lowest common denominator.  There was no discipline, authority, nor negatives.  Punishment was ‘medieval.’  Social workers spoke psycho­babble and spent months developing ‘relationships’ with the poor in hopes some values would rub off.            It was babysitting.  There was an amazing lack of basic literature, and what there was, was unreadable or worthless.  The poor were portrayed as miserable, when many (I knew) were happier than their social workers.
  3. Often nonprofessionals were more effective in social work than professionals.  There was even an example of the people needing help being more effective with each other than professionals were.  It was a self-help program run by prisoners.  It was tough and successful.  When professionals meddled, it lost its teeth and failed.


  1. Homosexuality used to be considered a mental problem, now it’s not; smoking and gambling were not, now they are.  Predicting violent behavior has been only 50% successful.  Therapists have been routinely conned by criminals.  They end up in bed with 5% of their patients (which an agency had to study to learn was harmful).  When one psychiatrist was caught, he claimed he was mentally ill.
  2. Therapists excuse all kinds of behavior and release killers, molesters, and rapists who repeat their crimes.  Mental patients leave expensive hospitals not knowing simple housekeep­ing.  Advanced training of therapists counts for little or nothing.   Mental health aides are called ‘psychiatric technicians’.
  3. In living with mental patients for two years, I learned the patients were l0% crazy and 90% spoiled, immature, and irresponsible.  Profes­sionals didn’t want to hear this.


  1. Some clergymen sleep with their parishioners.  Some priests have molested kids and some of their superiors have covered it up.  The U.S. Bishops have denied welfare bred dependence, have been anti-workfare, and have said the U.S. should forgive the debts of many countries.
  2. The World Council of Churches has favored socialism.


  1. ‘The best and the brightest’ gave us the Vietnam War.
  2. Highly educated people created disastrous communistic and social­istic schemes around the world.  Yet with the retreat of communism in Eastern Europe, many politicians and economists were sure those countries weren’t ‘ready’ for capitalism and should try socialism.

The media

  1. Journalists are often negative, incon­sis­tent, irrespon­sible, polarizing, myopic, and liberal.  They often distort, overdramatize, and lack taste and perspective.
  2. Professionals like to call problems ‘diseases.’  Violence, earthquakes, and inflation are somehow ‘diseases.’
  3. Many professionals won’t use plain English; and many become elitist and disdain ‘amateurs’.  (The best history is written by amateurs.)  After years of studying, they don’t want to come up with something amateurs can arrive at; they think it should be ‘complex’, ‘new’, and better.  They favor solutions that make them and their field look good.
  4. The biggest danger is when they are allowed to monopolize for privile­ge, exclusivity, and protection from competition.  This is seen when the Am. Medical Assoc. prevents nurses from giving independent care to patients.  It would be cheaper, but would mean less business for doctors.  The same with para­legals – they can serve the public inexpen­sively, but the Am. Bar Assoc. doesn’t want the loss of business.  The same with dentists; they don’t want dental hygienists to be allowed to clean teeth.
  5. Our sense of professionals is skewed.  They are as human, fallible, selfish, and political as anyone.  Many are verbose, arrogant, irresponsible, overedu­cated, and miseducated.  Many posture with gob­bledygook and complication.  Many have lost touch with the masses.
  6. To put them in perspective we should take certain steps.  Instead of using a deductive approach of starting at the top with the theories of professionals, we should start at the bottom (inductively) and observe how the people who need help, help each other, as in AA.  Then we should look at how nonprofessionals help them, and then move up to any other levels that exist beneath the professional level.  We should use an overview, traditional values, sensible definitions, brevity, conciseness, plain language, short titles, strict accountability, ratings, and graphs and flow-charts.  These would give us an idea of what is practical – on-the-job training, certain courses and certain books, and what is useless, irrelevant, idealistic, and destructive – jargon, theoretical books and courses, and interference with the free market in providing services.