I went to pick up my second university diploma today. It was kind of an accident that I remembered. But I did. When I got home I put it in the frame I bought. It's now neatly stowed behind glass, next to my other diploma. I have to admit, it looks pretty and I am proud of it... them. Black frame, blue mat with shiny gold writing, diploma with shiny gold seals of officialness. Five years, two sheets of paper. Because when I look at them and really think about them, they're just sheets of paper.
You have to admit that it's a strange thing we do. Using a sheet of paper to symbolize years of work, stress, tens of thousands of dollars. I was putting my BEd diploma in the frame next to my BA diploma and I noticed, I'm embarrassed to say that this is the type of thing I notice, but I noticed that my diplomas were printed on two different kinds of paper. Same university, different paper. PAPER! I have paper in my printer. And I can definitely create a document that looks exactly like my diploma. Actually, I could probably do better. When I look at them, I know what I see. I see the paper I wrote for my classical studies course about Harry Potter. And I see that book I couldn't stand reading from third year. I see arguing with my English prof about whether or not Shirley (from Charlotte Bronte's Shirley) is a lesbian. I also remember winning that argument. I assume the A means I won. I see that presentation I did in my Shakespeare class that I somehow completed and presented even after all my group members ditched me two days before the thing was due. The thing is, if I hang those diplomas in my office, if I ever have an office, no one is going to see any of that. They're going to see the seals, and the crest, and my name written in a sort of attractive font, and they might think: Hmmm... qualified. But likely, they'll think: Well, it's not Queens.
I've gone off on this before. Valuing letters more than valuing people and their will and ability to learn on the job. I've talked about undervaluing real-world experiences. And it bugs the crap out of me because to me, my diploma is more like a photograph than anything else. It says I was there. It says I jumped through the right hoops. But it doesn't say a whole lot about who I am, where I came from, what I overcame, what I believe. And last time I checked, having read the Iliad from cover to cover does not qualify me to hold any present day job.
I'm grateful for the education I've gotten. I'm grateful that I had the opportunity. But I hate that education is being reduced to some elitist commodity. If governments want to talk about our society being a meritocracy, they wouldn't allow education to be a privilege. Education would be a right. If they wanted to talk about meritocracies, they would talk about working your ass off at every stage of you school life and getting into universities and colleges based on potential and genuine merit. Then when they'd give you that diploma, that piece of paper, and those letters to follow your name, they might actually say something about you.
I'm proud of what I've accomplished because I know I've worked my ass off and I've earned what I have, but at the same time... it's all a little fake. This has probably been the same old rant in different words. Probably won't be the last time I write them either.
Think about it though.