Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Bogus Degrees in Taiwan

"In fact, I doubt either Tim or Julie would disagree with me. Would they want themselves or their children seeing a doctor who had not graduated from an accredited medical school and licensing agency regardless of their record? I doubt they would want to drive on a bridge built by an engineer who was not educated at an accredited school or have their teeth checked by an unaccredited dentist. If Rochville were selling medical or engineering degrees would you trust that the recipient had been properly examined by Rochville for their experience? Really, would you want a Rochville-certified doctor performing surgery on your children? Or is it just OK for you to be using their diplomas?"

Scott Sommers: discusses the phenomenon of bogus degrees at his blog. I have to disagree with the analogy between a liberal arts degree and a degree in medicine or engineering. The dirty little secret about teaching (as with journalism) is that it is a craft more than a real profession. That is, one gets good at it by doing it, rather than learning it systematically in a school. There are always going to be "gatekeeper standards" determining who may teach and who may not, but they are not as sacrosanct as those for doctors or bridge builders. Evidence of this is that it is often so difficult to detect uncredentialed teachers in our midst. Even a well-educated autodidact would usually be sniffed out by his medical cohorts at a good hospital - not so for an elementary school teacher. If a nuetron bomb that only killed doctors was dropped on Taiwan, it would take decades for the health care system to even approximate what is presently in place. I have no experience as a journalist, but I could do a reasonably good job at it starting tomorrow, and after a few years of doing it, I'd put my work up against the pros. Not so with doing surgery. You have to go to med school to do that.

V.S. Naipal has some things to say about liberal arts degrees (as quoted by Paul Theroux in "Sir Vidia's Shadow"), and having spent a small fortune that I didn't have on an English degree from the University of Chicago, I mostly agree: "I think they're calamitous, these English courses. They're actively destructive of civilization and thought. When I was at Oxford in 1950, I think we all knew that English was not a serious subject for study, not worth a serious degree, not worth a physics degree. It was not worth a man doing medical research. We knew that this business of doing English was a very soft option, an extension of the divinity courses of the last century. But that was what people went to Oxford for, to learn how to hunt and to live this great social life, and later, endless divinity people were produced. Probably a hundred years ago or less, Professor Sweet - you know, who is the origin of Professor Higgins in the Shaw play (he meant Henry Sweet, 1845-1912, phonetician and philologist) - he and some other people established this English course, a form of idleness for simple people. So that now, what has happened is that this non-course, this non-subject, has been taken over by politically motivated people. Universities have become places where free thinking is not allowed, where your tutor does not ask for an original thought about a work. But it's a political line! We were told in Oxford in 1950 that the best thing that happened to you occured in the holidays. That's when you did a lot of reading.The point of this course was that it allowed you to do an infinite amount of reading. Nowadays people read very, very little, and they have elaborate theories. And there have emerged whole generations from the universities who can't think and just parrot the phrases."