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From The Best Schools: Credentialism, Part II: The less well-advertised reasons why credentialism is so popular today

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“Credentialism” means creating barriers to entering the work force by padding and lengthening courses, raising fees, and marketing prestige or exclusivity. The usual explanation is that more and better education results, which helps students, prospective employers, and society in general.

Maybe credentialism does all that. But here are some other things it also does:

• It forms an industry for the people who create the courses and grant the credentials.

That’s not a bad thing in principle. In practice, its value depends on the relationship between credentials and later performance. In Part I, we saw that experts doubted the relationship between post-graduate business degrees and success in running a business. Similarly, editors have told me that they would rather hire journalists with science or economics degrees than journalism degrees.

Their logic was simple: They can teach a suitable applicant to report news, but they can hardly teach science or economics in a newsroom.


Here’s Credentialism, Part I: How much of your education do you really need?

Denyse - A few comments on my experiences with credentialism: (1) there are way too many places that have absolute credentials when graduated credentials would be helpful. For instance, with a doctor. Not every health problem requires a doctor, or even a doctor's oversight. We would save tons of money every year if we allowed nurses to perform basic medical care on their own with limited liability. In many cases, they keep on bumping up the minimum required credentials, meaning that more people get them, and they *mean* less. PhD is supposed to be for people at the highest level of their profession, but in many cases it is now the lowest entry point. (2) there are many places where the credentials are misplaced Your point about newsroom science people is well-taken. Another one that I have experience with is theology and pastoring. Many people - especially those in seminaries - think that doing theology and leading a church are practically the same thing. This is preposterous. One of the (many) reasons why theology is at such a low point in the modern world is that we are trying to push pastors through theology programs, or hand theologians churches. Both are recipes for disaster. Certainly pastors should know basic theology, but you can't have people who are called to lead a church and people who are trying to do deep theology in the same program, and expect the same things out of them. Since you can't fail the pastors (otherwise, they would just close the seminary), you wind up just dumbing down the whole program. (3) One of the things I love about computer programming is that it is almost 100% isolated from credentialism. It's about the code. One of our best hires for software development came straight out of high school. We never hire on the resume, because resumes can be faked, and it is a person's attitude, propensity, and character which make them good for the position. (4) I certainly think you are 100% right on the hiring decisions aspect. This is actually a huge problem - and it fits right in with materialism. Materialism says the only things that are important or real are those that can be measured. When the law agrees, that means that hiring practices must be made based on measurable qualities, and the immeasurable ones are meaningless, or you could get sued. If there's ever a re-release of "Reason in the Balance", I think that should get included. johnnyb

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