The wisdom of crowds…

Tim Van SoelenThe CACE RoundtableLeave a Comment

bradJames Suroweicki wrote a fascinating and thought-provoking book with this title in 2005. He tells tales such as that of Sir Frances Galton, a man obsessed with the measurement of physical and mental qualities, statistics, and breeding. Galton decided to  put his obsessions to the test at a livestock fair in London in 1884.  A fat ox was selected and put on display. The local fair goers purchased tickets upon which to write down their guess (how much the ox would be after it was slaughtered and dressed). Galton wanted to prove that the average voter was capable of very little. So, he collected the tickets and found the average of the group, or one could say the “wisdom of the crowd.” In this case, the crowd was very wise, collectively guessing 1,197 pounds. The actual weight of the slaughtered and dressed ox was 1, 198 pounds.

Suroweicki provides other similar examples of groups making remarkable decisions. From the 1968 search for the U.S. submarine Scorpion where naval officer John Craven used Bayes’ Theorem and the collective guesses of mathematicians, submarines specialists, and salvage men to locate the lost sub to the stock market (a financial group “weighing machine”) correctly identifying Morton Thiokol as the major contractor responsible for the Challenger space shuttle tragedy. The market dumped its stock six months before the Presidential Commission revealing that, in fact, Thiokols’ O-ring seals were flawed and responsible for the explosion. The book is full of stories that fit his thesis – under the right conditions, groups can be remarkably intelligent and often wiser than the wisest among them.

CACE is buying what Suroweicki is selling. Christian schools can be stronger and wiser together, there are so many best practices to share. Our goal is to connect and support Christian schools, Christian school leaders, Christian school teachers, and Christian parents who are choosing Christian schooling for their children. For Christian schools to flourish in the next 10, 20, 100 years…we need to agree on what matters – promoting, sustaining, improving and innovating our Christian schools. The Council for American Private Education (CAPE) has a catchy slogan: Private schools are good for students. Private schools are good for families. Private schools are good for America. I would agree completely but rephrase their slogan by stating Christian schools are great for students. Christian schools are great for families. Christian schools are great for America

Let’s be great together! Join the crowd…


  • Tim Van Soelen

    Dr. Tim Van Soelen serves as the Director of CACE. Tim is also a professor of education at Dordt University. He has served as a principal, assistant principal, and middle school math and computer teacher at schools in South Dakota and California. Tim has his undergraduate degree from Dordt and advanced degrees from Azusa Pacific University and the University of South Dakota.

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