Valuing the Academy

Obviously I haven't always been a non-student. Up until last May, I had been in school for 22 straight years: Montessori, Kindergarten, Elementary School, Middle School, High School, College--and topped it off with three years of graduate school. For most of those 22 years I liked school. No, I loved school. My mom loves to tell people how I cried on the weekends because I missed school so much. Mind you this was back when I was 3 or 4 and school was comprised of snack time, arts and crafts, and recess, but still I liked the routine of it. I liked being social. I liked being taught.

When I got to graduate school, I hit a wall. Suddenly all of the inspiration and desire I had to pursue academic achievement was gone. I found myself frustrated with the work, not because it was hard but because I was burned out and unmotivated. It didn't take long for me to conclude that a lifetime spent in the academy just wasn't for me. School was a means to an end, not an end in itself. The passion I once felt for school evolved into my commitment to using the knowledge I had to go out and do good in the world.

Student turned idealist. That's where I sit now, and I'm quite comfortable with my it. Where I experience discomfort is understanding why my partner SCL, already incredibly brilliant and degree-ed, wants to pursue another academic endeavor. Obviously I understand the prestige, not to mention the "oo"s and "ah"s, that accompany a doctoral degree. I get that it's helpful in certain fields to have an advanced degree. What I don't understand--and this applies to my own graduate degree as well--is how an academic credential translates to credibility in the workplace and how it could possibly usurp work experience as a qualification for a position.

True, some degree programs are professional and have more direct correlation to one's work--a JD, an MD, in my case, an M.Div. There is specific training involved and also some kind of post-graduation licensing/testing, etc. that ensures some standardization among schools. But, will my degree in divinity help me advance in the field of policy work? Should it?

For me, what I took away from school was the ability to learn a lot of things. Perhaps what those little letters before or after a name indicate is that a person is capable of a high level of learning. This is certainly not something to be devalued, but it also should not signify superiority. When someone looks at my resume, I hope they see my graduate degree as a mark of dedication to a subject area, the ability to persevere, and the willingness at one point or another to learn something in depth. Other than that, that the diploma is just a piece of paper, sitting up in my closet waiting to be framed.

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