When Looking Good on Paper is All That Matters

I’ve noticed something in this day and age. (Oh here it is, I’m 27 and I already sound like I should have a cane and 20 cats). 

But it’s true. At one point it was pretty much taken as a fact that if you read a lot about something you learned a lot about it and, therefore, became an expert in the subject. 

Today, however, that isn’t so much the truth. It seems that even in the world of freelance writing it doesn’t matter if you’ve read and studied libraries about a subject, certain people and clients still want you to have a PhD before they want to hire you. 

I find this really odd. Think about it. What do you do in school to obtain that degree? 
Well, most of the time you read a lot of books, think critically about it, and write about it. 

But somehow if you do the same thing without selling a kidney to pay for it and spending time in a classroom listening to a professor with 30 other people resulting in a piece of paper with letters after your name, it doesn’t count. 

I’m confused. Somebody help me with this. 

Let me tell you something. I have my degree in Political Science, and I like it, don’t get me wrong. But I know way more about at least three other subjects than I do about political science. And you know what else? I know people who were art majors that know more about political science than me? Why? 

Because they read about it, they’re passionate about it, they learn about it, and they absorb it. That’s why. 

But yet, if both of us went to write up a proposal for a writing job, I’d probably have a leading edge because I have the degree. It makes no sense at all. 

If I study something and learn a lot about it in a school (or even if I learn enough to pass the test and then hit the handle on the toilet of my brain when I walk out the door of the final) and I get a degree in it, I’m golden. But if I study something and learn a lot about it in my kitchen, I don’t know anything. 

Now don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the value of an education, that’s why I went to college in the first place. But people in this day and age seem to put an almost illogical importance on the link between having a degree in something and knowing a lot about it. 

Can I just tell you from experience that having a degree in something most of the time has nothing to do with knowing a lot about the subject, it means I strategically studied for and passed classes and graduated. Unless it’s a Master’s or PhD then you have a good chance of actually having enjoyed the subject enough to absorb something. 

I’ve always been interested in psychology, particularly criminal psychology. (Don’t ask). I almost had a 2nd major in Criminal Justice and almost had a minor in Psychology. Staying 2 extra semesters to get 2 classes in didn’t seem financially responsible so I graduated with Poli Sci only but now I kind of wish I’d stayed. 

Not the point. If you wanted me to write about criminal psychology, criminology, victimology, sociopaths, criminal profiling, or anything of the sort, I could write pages before I even had to crack a book because I know a lot about it. I study it. 

Yet somehow it means nothing to mainstream society. Until I start analyzing the criminals in Person of Interest and scare people that don’t know me that well…..then they believe me. 🙂 

But seriously…I just don’t understand why having a paper with letters after your name is such a big deal. 

Unless you’re performing surgery, then I start drawing the line. 

But particularly for the liberal arts and things that don’t require laboratory experience to be proficient, it seems perfectly reasonable to me to assume that someone who studies a lot of information on a subject they’re passionate about would be an expert in the field. 

Somehow, though, looking good on paper is all that seems to matter, and I think it’s a huge flaw in the way our society collectively thinks. 

Even when it comes to corporate jobs, the situation is the same. Have you ever had an interviewer actually ask you to tell them about what you know? No. They say “Oh, I see you have a BA in Psychology, that’s great.” and they don’t ask you what you know about psychology. If you actually have the gall to write down “expert in computer programming” without having a degree in it, you’ll get laughed at because they don’t have the time to sit there and actually…you know…see if you’re qualified by listening to you. No, they see if you’re qualified by looking at your resume and seeing how many letters are after your name. 

Just something that baffles my mind and I can’t wrap my head around it. What do you think about this issue? Can you only be an expert in something you hold a degree in? Or do you believe, as Mozart once said, that the only school one needs is the mind? 

Let me know what you think! 🙂


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