In this blog post, a scientist who routinely is contacted by K-12 students fulfilling a school assignment to "contact an expert" complains that they ask simple questions they could easily have answered via wikipedia (say). This scientist frames the problem in several different ways (class issues, elitism, bad assignments, etc.). _IN FACT_, and as one of the commenters sort of edges up to, what is actually happening is that the teacher is trying to get the student to "interview an expert, record it and then write up the interview". The actual content of the interview or the expertise of the expert is largely irrelevant.
Now, IT IS TRUE, that this is a drag on the time of a bunch of people who maybe don't want to be doing random interviews with random children who send them random emails. And that is fair. Just say no.
But honestly, what the teacher is teaching is pretty easy to understand, and an important skill, and, like all learning exercises, necessarily DOES NOT INVOLVE NEW CONTENT. So all of the scientist's complaints along the lines of hey, look it up ya fool, are entirely missing the point in an extremely autistic way.
Sometimes I think everyone has autism. They don't. They just have completely failed to take perspective, and got hung up on a literal understanding of a request and missed cues in communication that should have told them the request was not meant to be understood literally. Which happens with autism -- but also happens with humans in general.
Also, this is really weird:
"These students, in the upper social class, are learning a wholly inappropriate lesson – that publicly-funded professors are there to answer their basic questions about science in lieu of going to the trouble of opening up a goddamn book."
Doubtful. They don't ever come back and do it again -- they only did it when ordered to. The kids know this is inappropriate behavior. Altho if you framed it this way, maybe it wouldn't seem so inappropriate: "These students are learning that publicly-funded professors are accessible to the public to explain their work in advancing human knowledge." Probably the teachers should pre-arrange a list of experts who are willing to serve this purpose, and inflict the kiddos on them, instead. Or maybe just round up all the parents and have the kids interview the other kids parents. Or whatever.
h/t Nate over at Ink, Bits & Pixels in Morning Coffee.