More Than a Few Degrees Off

Ashley Thorne

As I deleted spam emails the other day, I noticed that one of them was about an academic subject: obtaining a college degree. I paused for a look. The email said:

We can assist with Diplomas from prestigious universities based on your present knowledge and LifeExperience. No required examination, tests, classes, books, or interviews.          

Bacheelor, MasteerMBA, and Doctoraate diplomas available in the field of your choice - that's right, you can become a Doctor and receive all the benefits that comes with it!   

Diploma/Certificate Valid in all countries     

No one is turned down     

Confidentiality assured

Please call today!!  

Astonished, I saved the body of the message before erasing it from my inbox. I looked at the phone number it listed and considered calling to see how this sort of thing might work, and how much this merchandise would cost. Then I noticed the postscript, “Just leave your NAME & PHONE NO. (with CountryCode) in the voicemail,” and thought better of that decision.

Of course, the email was most likely nothing more than a spam scheme to get personal information from the gullible. But its sales pitch stayed with me. Get a diploma without earning it? Based on “your present knowledge and LifeExperience”? I was unaware that life experiences merited such lavish capitalization, much less a degree from a prestigious university. And aside from the sleepy extra vowels in Bacheelor, Masteer, and Doctoraate, the sheer convenience touted here was disconcerting.

Now, I know that a black market for fake diplomas really exists (the manufacturers are called diploma mills), and that people really purchase them. And probably, people have done so in order to “become a doctor and receive all the benefits that comes with it!” A scary thought indeed.

But the genuine academic world also reflects the advertisement’s tone. The spam message prompts us to ask, “What’s in a degree?” Surely it should represent far more than whatever we know and do apart from college.

Yet sadly, degrees are losing value. The basic elements of a rigorous education (“examinations, tests, classes, books”) are becoming less and less rigorous. Spinning on the winds of whimsy, the academy today indulges in grade inflation, standard-lowering, group preferences, and courses based more on feelings than on facts. Universities might as well give away unearned, meaningless diplomas.

In contrast, the National Association of Scholars stands for individual merit, integrity, excellence, and worth in higher education. Our aim is to hold American colleges and universities to these standards. It’s much harder to recall a nation to sharp-mindedness than to let it lapse into mediocrity—but NAS accepts the challenge.

If you too want to restore worth to higher education, I invite you to join NAS. We won’t send you spam.

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