Sunlit Water

December 1, 2010

Mandarinism And Cheating

Filed under: Academia,Culture,Planning — by teofilo @ 1:04 am

Tim Burke has some interesting thoughts on a cheating scandal that casts into stark relief the gatekeeping function of so much professional education these days.  I think he’s definitely right that churning vast numbers of students through low-value-added degree programs that provide little more than a credential that serves as a ticket to a white-collar job practically invites cheating, and that it’s probably a bad way for these professions to be selecting their members.  His proposed solution is to improve the education in these programs so that their graduates actually come out of them knowing something.  I wonder if it might be better, as long as we’re talking about wholesale restructuring of the higher education system, to just get rid of these programs entirely, at least in the universities.  If the professional organizations want to institute training requirements as barriers to entry, maybe they can set them up and run them themselves.  That might have the additional benefit of making what professional education there is more practical, as it would probably be taught mainly by practitioners rather than by academics with little connection to professional practice.

I think in a lot of cases, though, it would just mean lower barriers to entry to a lot of professions.  Some of the more ridiculous pseudo-professions could do with a lot less of this credentialing.  Planning is a prime example; I’m almost through a masters-level program at a well-regarded planning school, and while I’ve enjoyed the program and learned a lot, I don’t feel like I’m going to be much more prepared to do actual work in a planning job when I graduate than I was when I entered.  The degree is basically a credential, and while that’s fine with me personally I do wonder if there’s any real reason for programs like this to exist at all.  Planning is the sort of field where it’s very close to literally true that anyone could do the job with or without any formal education, and efforts to “professionalize” the field over the past several decades have had only limited success.  It’s still quite possible to get a lot of planning jobs without any formal education in planning, although it’s more difficult than it used to be.  While it’s obviously in my personal interest to keep the credentialing system in place, I don’t see much reason for anyone outside the field to support that.



  1. Hey, Teo, do you still do the blog from the historical perspective of one of the colonies, or something like that? My buddy was admiring a blog from the time of the Southern succession, and I thought he would dig your blog.

    Comment by McGrumps — December 19, 2010 @ 10:18 pm |Reply

  2. I just did it for a year, so it’s no longer being updated, but it’s still there.

    Comment by teofilo — December 19, 2010 @ 10:47 pm |Reply

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