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Our Obsession with Credentials

Growing up with an obsessively patriotic father, one of the advantages he gave of our society over the one we separated ourselves form (and I mean the United Kingdom) was that, while the UK elevated people based on their credentials, ours did so based on what they actually accomplished. Whether his characterisation of the UK was fair or not is one thing, although it seemed in the 1960’s and 1970’s they were having trouble with their leadership. With ours, it’s safe to say that, while our system in the past is subject to review, there’s no doubt that these days we’ve opted for a credentialistic system of advancement.

Cruising about on Twitter, one sees people tack on “PhD” or whatever degree they have with every post. That’s especially true in the evangelical world, where a group of academics are currently at war with large parts of the evangelical establishment (such as it is.) They obviously want to get a leg up on their dreadfully uneducated opponents and, in like fashion to the way Tertullian used the Roman legal principle of prescription, seek to block their opponents from speaking to issues they have much more authority to address.

It’s the same in our secular society. The Republicans took a break from Ivy League credentialism to nominate and confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. The Democrats retaliated in their desperation to nominate and have elected Joe Biden to the White House, the first non-Ivy League President since Ronald Reagan. Now we’re back to SOP with the current nominee, who is an Ivy Leaguer. She feels she must defer to the biologists on the question of what is a woman, not realising that current orthodoxy states that gender, like race, is a social construct. How is it possible for a biologist to determine a social construct? And how can she be fairly characterised as the first Black woman to be nominated to the Supreme Court when she doesn’t know what a woman is?

But I digress…in my profession (Civil and Mechanical Engineering, and especially Civil) it’s really pretentious to parade your credentials in the industry. And it’s potentially hazardous too; the success or failure of what you do depends on the quality of work you obtain from people with far less education and expertise than you might have, it pays to be nice to them. Moreover people who have experience should be listened to; you might avoid problems if you can process the information they give you and use it well.

I don’t think these United States are going to be the better for shifting to a credentialistic method of advancement. We’ll just trade one form of ignorance for another. There’s no sign that our current elites are any more cosmopolitan or have a better understanding of the world around them than those who got us through World War II and the Cold War. Perhaps the reason why they’re so keen on social constructs is that they themselves are trapped in one of their own making, and sad to say we’ll all be the worse for it.


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