Part I - Who is Dr. Sharon S. Smith?
Most people, upon hearing that Sharon S. Smith has both a B.S. and a M.S. in Education, would think that she was a school teacher. Most would be wrong, because Smith has had a long career as an FBI agent! Everything must be taken in context.
Smith was hired to make a report on Peter Simmons’ phone call which was evidence in the Canadian action. Surprisingly, she was not hired by Simmons! In my next post I’ll reveal who hired her.
Dates Degrees Earned
Smith omitted to mention when any of her degrees were awarded. Her paper “Forensic Psycholinguistics” (co-author Dr. Roger Shuy) was published in April 2002. She did not appear to have her Doctorate at the time she wrote this. It is interesting that Dr. Shuy’s degrees are in English, and at that time Smith’s degrees appeared to be restricted to Education. Psycholinguistics implies Psychology and Linguistics, yet Smith appeared to have a degree in neither.
Smith became an expert in an unusual way. In most professions, the accepted procedure is to earn a degree or degrees in your specialization, and then to apply your knowledge as you gain experience. Smith appears to have gained her experience first. Her formal academic qualifications in Psychology are more recent. She lists this: “Ph.D. in Psychology, Georgetown University, Washington, DC, with specialized training in Psycholinguistics.” (I saw no mention of the topic of her thesis.) I called the Psychology Department at Georgetown. Neither of the two individuals I spoke to was aware of any Psychology professor linked with Psycholinguistics, or of any courses taught in that area by the Psychology Department.
I executed a search for the word “psycholinguistics” in the Georgetown catalog over five academic years. I searched all courses, all departments, but I could only find four different courses that even mentioned psycholinguistics in their description. Only one actually had psycholinguistics in the title - LING-271 Introduction to Psycholinguistics. No courses were from the Psychology Department.
Smith may have had “specialized training in Psycholinguistics” at Georgetown, but what was the academic rigour and duration of this training?
Of more concern to me than her academic qualifications, is her knowledge of West Indian dialects, or Caribbean dialects as she calls them. I wonder if she knows that Peter Simmons is a Barbadian, as she refers to Jamaican dialect. Jamaica is approximately a thousand miles from Barbados. Why would a Bajan speaking to a Canadian use Jamaican dialect? Smith pointedly omits reference to the Barbadian dialect in her report. Furthermore, there is nothing in Smith’s CV to indicate that she knows the Bajan dialect, yet she does not hesitate to offer an opinion.
My neighbour, who is a Jamaican, was HIGHLY amused at some of Smith’s interpretation of the ‘phone call transcript! Personally, if I wanted to decipher a language, I would try to find someone knowledgeable about that language, and not someone who may have experience in “Psycholinguistics”.
More reading: I did not find much on psycholinguistics on the web, but here is a clip from Forensic Linguistics. Click on it to see the source. Connection? Sharon S. Smith was a spokesperson for the FBI during the Waco standoff..Yes, Psycholinguistics is risky. Even Dr. Smith thinks so. Here is a clip from her disclaimer: “… makes no representations or warranties to the Client or any third parties as to the ultimate accuracy or reliability of these methodologies …”