I facilitated part of a workshop at Baltimore Clayworks this past weekend. I started the session by asking participants what they were an expert at. My stipulation is that everyone is an expert at something. Even youth are experts in their own experience, but more often than not that expertise is ignored, devalued and discredited. I knew that young people were taught not to value their own knowledge, but it surprised me how many of the adults in the room also had an incredibly difficult time articulating something that they are an expert on. 

Maybe it is that all the participants were community arts teachers and so are a group of people that are humble and know that they do not know everything. I wonder if it would be different in an academic or business environment. In any case, I think we should more often talk about our experiences in a way that acknowledges the expertise we have gained from them. Everyone has experience and learns things from their experiences. How do we tap into this huge wealth of knowledge? How do we use it? Value it? Make sure that everyone can be proud of where they come from because they have learned something in their journey.

The point of my workshop was that often student's knowledge is not valued and this devaluing is damaging to individual growth and perpetuates most prejudices. If we learn not to value the knowledge we have gained through experience and to put a greater amount of emphasis on knowledge given in school, we are creating a society that disservices our youth and ourselves.

At what are you an expert?