Marnen Laibow-Koser wrote:
By asking me to disregard your teaching lineage and rank, you are asking me to disregard the only reasonably objective criteria I have access to and focus instead on something I have no basis to evaluate. This goes double in a non-competitive art like (most styles of) aikido, where I cannot even see how you stack up in competition against other practitioners who are not your students. (Note: this is not meant to be a value judgement for or against competition.)
Think Mr. Valadez's idea of taking any lineage with a gigantic grain of salt is a fine one. And it's a natural extension of the idea that "a belt's just something to hold your gi pants up." Not to mention that the guy with the high dan, great lineage, and real skills may not be as good a teacher as the nidan beginners' class teacher without the great lineage. It's often found in sports that the best coaches and trainers are not always (indeed, not often) the most talented superstars. For the superstars, a lot of what makes them great is due to some innate talent, and they sometimes have difficulty seeing things from the POV of someone without that natural gift. And that's before considering the usual pitfalls of lineages: resume stuffing, and the like.
All that said, I think Mr. Valadez's idea of not asking nor caring about lineages works a lot better in his situation, where a student is usually vouched-for before hand (rather than walking in off the street) and has the opportunity to experience a month's free trial. For the typical dojo, getting as much info as possible is the way to go. (Although I still don't know what rank my current sensei is, nor am I particularly inclined to ask...)