June 10, 2007

On Being Degreed

Barry over at Staring at Empty Pages has a piece up about a friend of his who is an adjunct professor, helped develop the curriculm for her school, written books about her area of expertise, but was recently informed that she could no longer teach at the school because she didn't have the requisite PhD that the school was now requiring for all their educators. This clearly is an injustice for his friend and a stupid bureaucratic rule put in place by the school. One wonders what this particular school is like that they wouldn't even consider providing a grandfather clause that would allow her to continue teaching - after all, she'd been quite successfully doing that before this rule was put in place.

Do you really need a PhD to have great expertise in an area? Under that rule, a university would no longer be able to have someone like Al Gore come teach a class for a semester. Nor would Steve Jobs and Bill Gates be eligible to teach a class, because they are obviously undereducated. Something is clearly awry here.

How much of this raising the requirements for someone to work at a job is a factor of the increased competition based on the numbers of people who are now degreed? And how much is to put higher barriers in place so as to exclude the riff-raff who seek to crash the party?

In the technical world, a couple of decades ago, it was not uncommon to find brillant software designers who didn't even have a bachelor's degree. Today, it is rare to find companies that will hire someone for their demonstrated skill without their having a college degree as well. And in many companies, the standard is one now needs to have a Masters Degree.

How open is our society to those quirky, yet, deeply intelligent people who haven't gone the standard educational route these days? Do we still have the ability to recognize those unsung geniuses like Eric Hoffer, the self-taught public intellectual who wrote the seminal book on mass movements, The True Believer? Perhaps the internet is one brightspot on making sure not all gates are closed to these uncredentialed experts, because sometimes they are the ones who can cut through the conventional wisdom that makes so many disciplines incestuous.

Posted by Mary at June 10, 2007 03:34 PM | Education | Technorati links |

Parallel and equally as distressing is the stifling of creative thought extolled by many institutions. Post graduate education has become so compartmentalized that anyone with a truly radical set of ideas will have a hard time passing peer review, not because of the merits and flaws of their research or analysis but simply because of intellectual vanity.

Posted by: Thomas at June 10, 2007 08:02 PM

It's simply a tool of the elite that prevents others from accessing the higher levels of society. It's impossible to come to any conclusion other than that this is deliberate. They could build more colleges so that tuition would be lower and most Americans could go, but they don't. They would rather only have 1/4th the adult population have bachelor's degrees. They would rather keep their children from having to compete with other peoples children, while at the same time opening up the competition for the jobs lower income people have to settle for. That's why they want guest worker programs and 11H's, but they don't allow American recognition of foreign higher-education. That way only we have to suffer the adverse effects of globalization, and they get to reap the cheaper labor, services and goods.

Posted by: soullite at June 11, 2007 10:13 AM

This kind of credentialing to protect professional status is the pattern in most fields that want to make a claim of expertise. For the US, the paradigmatic case is that of medical education -- some info here. In the early 20th century, standardization made medical ed much more scientific -- and ensured that existing professionals controlled how many people entered the field and who they were, thus keeping of the value of their own expertise.

Posted by: janinsanfran at June 11, 2007 03:23 PM