October 05, 2015

Universities, allow imperfect and perhaps even inadequate minds, to have a voice in your classrooms. That's diversity!

My daughter, an art fanatic, on hearing my explanation about the monstrous mistake of credit-risk weighted capital requirements for banks, pointed me to “The forger’s spell”, a book by Edward Dolnick about the falsification of Vermeer paintings. Was she right!

In it Dolnick makes a reference to Francis Fukuyama having heard Daniel Moynihan opining: “There are some mistakes it takes a Ph.D. to make”. And Dolnick also speculates that perhaps Fukuyama had in mind George Orwell’s comment, in “Notes on Nationalism”, that of: “one has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool.” 

That is why when now Della Bradshaw reports about “a growing recognition that the world’s intractable problems need business solutions means MBA directors are searching for students with a more diverse background to fill their classrooms” I say: “Way to Go!” “More variety is the spice of classroom life” October 5.

Of course we must inject some confident ordinary minds in the classes in order for these to pose the questions that must be made. My impression is that experts never really try sufficiently to convince other experts of why they are right and others wrong, but they do their utmost when it comes to convincing the non-experts that they are the best experts.

Oh if I only had been in those classes where the minds of sophisticated future bank regulators were trying to estimate unexpected losses in the same direction as those expected losses derived from perceived risks.

My ordinary mind would not have been able to hear such foolishness and keep silence. Don’t you know that out there, in the real world, what is really risky is that what we can wrongly perceive as absolutely safe? I have never heard of a substantial number of persons dying because of bungee jumping. Have you?

As an Executive Director in the World Bank I once stated: "A mixture of thousand solutions, many of them inadequate, may lead to a flexible world that can bend with the storms. A world obsessed with Best Practices may calcify its structure and break with any small wind.” So, universities, please allow for imperfect and even inadequate minds, to also have a voice in your classrooms.

That said, be careful though with what the calls for diversity really means. It could be modern Giuseppe di Lampedusa types wanting to diversify only in order to remain the same.

@PerKurowski ©