Between depriving a man of one hour from his life and depriving him of his life there exists only a difference of degree.
aNewDomain — Sometimes we think we are on the right side. That lets us equivocate and justify our positions.
I used to work for a for-profit university. I did that for just as long as I could justify it. This place’s story was that it was possible to do good and make money at the same time.
In the end, though, the making of money overrode the doing of good; several culminating incidents forced me to quit. In the end, I realized there may not be that much difference between the free or cheap fake degree you buy from a huckster online — and the one you pay a spiffly little boutique school for.
Dave Benfell makes the case here that fake diplomas arise because we value the having of a degree — as a commodity, a material thing that advances us professionally — over the attainment of education . By that I mean the work that we do, our willingness to engage with knowledge in an open-minded capacity.
While I am cagey about the use of words like “neoliberal” and other language that points to the lens rather than what the light reveals, it is hard to argue the premise here is wrong.
You could get a fake degree for free or cheap …
Okay. So go into Google and type “fake diploma.”
You can see for yourself how easy it is to get a solid-looking counterfeit degree from any school you choose. You can order up fake transcripts, too.
So what’s the point of going out and obtaining a real degree?
It used to be the prime actors in this industry were in places the United States could not regulate. It used to be that they made an effort to appear legitimate, like offering college experience for life experience and accrediting such programs through foreign puppet governments.
But this is big business now. So it’s everywhere with not even a pretense at accreditation.
If your employer believes you have the degree you say you have, what’s the difference?
Profit margins are higher if you can just sell signatures and embossed seals than if you have to pay bribes to influence small governments.
Or you could pay $80K for the fake degree
About the program I quit working for: I quit for two economic reasons and two ethical reasons. All the reasons came together in one moment, in one term.
On the economic side, the school was increasingly demanding on my time without offering significant pay or security. I was working for just about $8 an hour, if I was careful to restrict my hours, and they were about to change, for the third time, their syllabus and delivery system. They were changing these things to dumb down the program.
We did away with the two term papers and replaced them with word-search puzzles. And a student plagiarized a paper, grossly and explicitly from a homework-help website, offering the excuse that she’d have done her own work except she was out of town that week. She had a friend do the work for her.
The school was not in the slightest bit interested in investigating. They’d take her Visa payment, though.
This for-profit school’s ethics board consisted of a guy with a high-school diploma who couldn’t think through an ethical situation but only read the checklist in front of him.
Somehow, maddeningly, this situation crossed no action thresholds.
Well, I walked from that job.
But look: What’s the difference in getting an $80,000 bachelor’s degree in psychology for which the most significant work one does is a word-search puzzle and for which cutting and pasting from cheating websites is considered acceptable work, and just straight-up buying your diploma or degree from a guy with a certificate mill in his basement?
Both degrees are fake. It’s just a matter of degree. One puts you into debt forever and creates the illusion of accomplishment.
The other is free or relatively affordable, but you can’t tell yourself you didn’t cheat to get it. Not easily, anyway.
Sure, the Internet cheap diploma guy in the basement has exploited you. But with the 80K fake degree the so-called “university” has exploited you to a much greater extent, and has subverted the government in order to do so, loosening standards and restrictions with constant lobbying and misinformation. It has subverted the educational process itself; has subverted the work of actual educators by taking funding away from real universities and spreading it through corporate profits.
I’d rather you just bought a degree.
But if you’re going to spend 80 grand and four years on it, you could just work hard, hire a tutor and do the remedial work. Don’t let them let you ride. Along the way you might find it is worth working for.
For aNewDomain, I’m Jason Dias.