Do Credentials Matter More than Ability?

The Anchoress offers an interesting viewpoint on the status of an ‘Uncredentialed Wonder,’ Pete Hamill, who  “finally received an honorary graduate’s diploma from Regis High School, a Jesuit-run prep school from which he dropped out 59 years earlier.”

Seems Mr. Hamill has had a long and extinguished career with the New York Times, and he wonders at the ability to find gainful employment without academic credentials.  Ms. Scalia continues,

“We live in an era where a well-educated journalist can declare the Constitution to be “over a hundred years old” and therefore difficult to understand, and remain credibly employed; it does seem that credentials matter more than ability. Demonstrating that one is able to conform to curricula currently trumps boldness; seat hours in the auditorium count more than audacity, (emphasis mine).

Let it be known that Cowboy Papist has no undergraduate degree, but still seems to fight that battle in job searches with over 25 years of experience in selling highly technical enterprise software solutions; so yes, it a bit of a sore point.  Ms. Scalia goes on:

“I wonder if that’s really good for America, though. To become educated is a marvelous thing; to have the opportunity to study is a privilege too many take for granted. But have we become a society that places too much weight on the attainment of a diploma, which sometimes indicates nothing more than an ability to keep to a schedule and follow a syllabus, and underappreciates the ability to wonder, to strike out on an individual path, and to learn on one’s own? When did non-conformists become so unromantic and undervalued?

” . . . It is a wonderful thing to sit in a classroom and grow in knowledge, if one is in fact doing that, but often it seems that degrees should be awarded in going through the motions; they come without a genuine expansion of thought, or an enlargement of wonder. And, to paraphrase Gregory of Nyssa, it’s the wondering that begets the knowing.

” . . . As recently as sixty years ago society was willing to take some things on faith, and that habit-of-faith allowed room for instinct to have a voice; it permitted one to try people out—to give a guy a chance to prove himself. Lacking faith, lacking a mindset that can trust in possibilities, there is nothing to fall back on but credentials. . . . Education and certification, particularly in the hard sciences, is essential and good, and a broad education is life-enriching. But society needs a few people audacious enough to strike out, or to dare the system, if only to show us that it is still permissible to wonder.”

The fact that Cowboy Papist has sold over $45M in enterprise software licenses and services in three major industries to multiple vertical markets speaks to the strength of intellectual curiosity and wonder.  An academic degree isn’t always what it’s worth; go ahead and ask someone who has over $100K in financial aid debt earning the same amount in the same job as someone who doesn’t have the debt or degree.

It doesn’t speak well of the value of our higher education in America today.

This entry was posted in Culture, Opinion, Personal and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.