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Saturday, Feb. 05, 2005
This rant is entirely to be laid at the feet of Bingoguy, who put it out there with topspin with This Entry.

There are a lot of educated readers out there who may covet their sheepskin more than my erudite line of reasoning, but bear with me. You know I love you all regardless.

Letís say you had to make a trip to your regular doctors office for, I donít know, getting your fingers stitched up after an incident with the blender, letís say. Youíre ushered into the exam room and poked for a while, some questions are asked, some tests are taken. You zip up your shirt and get to sit in the doctors office for half an hour awaiting an opinion while heís in the lounge eating a burrito and playing a little heavy duty Play Station.

Now sacrosanct to a doctors office is the mighty wall loaded with a sack full of framed certificates, diplomas, acknowledgements and testimonials. Youíd scarcely know you were even in a doctors office without them, so standard to the breed is the ego wall. So necessary and fulfilling.

But what, pray tell, do they all mean? What value do they bear?

Wouldnít you feel better knowing that all those parchments came as an afterthoughtof at least one good tour of duty in an emergency room as a resident, sewing bloody digits back on in the wee hours of the morning? That he could diagnose and treat such a thing with little more thought than what youíd devote to emptying an ashtray?

ĎCourse you would. He could have a diploma from Jiffy Lube on the wall for all it mattered, so long as he had the hard time spent doing something like surgery as his day job. I mean, if he graduated from his 4 year college while working at Jiffy Lube, he probably had a lot more skills at changing your oil than anything else. Sewing on fingers was a ways down the road. The college diploma? Means that college was survived, fifteen thousand beers and 32 home football games and an entire semester of dorm hall vodka hockey later.

Letís say you graduated high school, you work in an office situation, you have been there for years, know the whole routine, have set up programs and bought equipment and kept the boss in tune and basically are the hub around which the money flows into the establishment. You create so much of the environment that the powers that be decide to bring in help for you, and decide (this is key here) that only a college educated person could be on a par with the skillsets youíve already brought to bear.

But the policy for hiring the new help dictates a starting salary for college educated people that's at or above what youíre making already. Enter the realm of what my wife suffered through for several years. She continued with the company, and not one but eventually four college grads were brought on board, all of them advanced in salary until Ally was way behind the curve, yet they still gave Ally the main responsibility and she was, in fact, in charge of these women. I can tell you, despite of how things should be, that maybe at least one of the four would turn out to be a crackerjack worker or bring interesting new ways of doing things, new concepts or endorsable ideas, but they all were better off as a social events planner for the company office party than as a money maker for the firm. Iím talking about serious, government defense level stuff here. They all had the diploma but brought all the brains of a Collie to the table.

I worked with a collector of parchment for a while. This guy was a little older than I but we had nearly the exact amount of experience in the construction world. This guy hadnít been to college but was a serious wrangler of seminar experiences and a world class ass-kisser to boot. Commercial woodworking happens to have a national body that offers a whole slew of seminars on different skills, normally youíd want to be semi-involved in the skill but theyíd let you into the seminar for the fee regardless. Youíd go to Atlanta or Phoenix for a week, take a class for 8 hours, party all night and do the same thing the next day. Result? Woodworking Certificate worthy of framing, every time. This guy had a dozen of the damn things after 20 years in the industry and filled up a wall in his office with them, all beautifully framed in wood (it should be noted, of course, that some poor shop guy was the one doing the actual framing). The guy would return from these trips and wouldnít recall much of anything about them save the name of the bartender at the hotel. He knew next to nothing about his trade. Iím serious, it was absolutely incredible how lacking he was in basic knowledge about the trade he was oft decorated for.

I donít believe in diplomas, and I surely have no use for certificates. Iíve got a drawer full of stuff like that. Hell Iím just as guilty. They sent me on a CADD drafting seminar one week years ago and I remember nothing about it except that the Holiday Inn in D.C. happened to have some of the best crab cakes Iíve ever had. Iíve got the certificate, but I couldnít use that CADD program today if you put a gun to my head. Other things I got certificates for was stuff I already knew so well they just gave Ďem to me out of guilt or the desire to sell me stuff that required me to be, you know, certifiable.

Everybody with heavy experience in their own field has been down this road at least once. Some pissant at the corporate level will send down a memo requiring you to be certified in something you probably saw from infancy and have been using with aplomb for years, so they tote you off to a three day conference that you could absolutely teach by yourself, all for the almighty certificate (worthy of framing) to be had at the end. Outside of getting behind on what youíre doing at the office at the time, your only result out of the whole thing is a couple of killer hangovers and a few new email addresses from your fellow classmates who snoozed through the day with you.

I got out of the whole corporate experience largely because stuff like this was tolerated and encouraged. Iím in a world where money is made not on the basis of your collection of sacred scrolls but on knowledge and the drive to put it into effect.

Nobody has ever asked for any of my credentials when there was a deadline and two floors worth of high level laboratory cabinets had to be brought online in two weeks and nobody qualified was to be found. Call it a reputation or just plain orneriness, they found out who to call and that the terror of the Outfoxed Crew would be onsite within hours and there would be much standing around of managers and sheepskin merchants while the necessary work would be slammed home by a couple of steely eyed, yet much experienced old timers. I eat that shit for lunch, and my only certificate might be a phone number on a bar napkin that I gave the contractor the night before. A very scared and morose contractor I might add, who bewailed his predicament about two floors worth of stuff to me the night before. Yep, true story. Not the only time it happened, either.

Show me your ability to kick ass by the size of your shoe and the welts accumulated. Leave the fleece where it belongs, in a dusty drawer somewhere.

Trust me. The real world could very much care less when it really counts. If that's all you have to draw comfort from, you aren't worth the faux gold seal on it.


By the way, when Ally left her job, those four college hire-ons?

Gone, within 6 months. The house was cleaned.

Geez, Iím in a vindictive sort of way today, eh?

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