How Academic Credentials Eroded Reading Culture

“Reading makes immigrants of us all. It takes us away from home but most importantly, it finds homes for us everywhere.” – Jean Rhys

Learning is the highest calling of mankind and to apply that knowledge is the true manifestation of that calling. This is a belief I’ve long held as manifested in these articles (& 2) before among others and I often amass myself into learning with the aim of acquiring knowledge of practical value in my life. It may not be the norm for most people but at least there are those who read for the fun of it which is good as well. Of concern to me are those who have no thirst for knowledge and in some way I put the blame on our education system and by extension the academic credentials system that gave ultimate value to the papers an individual has. Our job market also fuels this pursuit for academic credentials and while this happens, individuals collect papers but with limited practical knowledge. This is a worry for me and I believe there’s need to detach competency from academic papers. In retrospect this is one of the reasons as to why we hear reports of graduates having to be retrained in the job market. On a positive note, some of organizations have started employing individuals for the skills they have with little regard for degrees even though to a limited extent. This is not to say that we don’t need degrees and education. To the contrary, we need them but not as a means to an end but as the ultimate value, to acquire skills of practical use & value.

As I mentioned in this post, we launched our YouTH Voices Network and it is a great feeling knowing that we are bound to make a contribution in the betterment of our communities by nurturing a generation of competent individuals through capacity building trainings, mentorship and networking opportunities. This is and was a highlight of my day. However, there is this constant and persistent trend to seek credentials & testimonials as evidence of having gone through a program that bothers me. Why would it matter to obtain a paper without the skills? I’d rather get the skills, apply them and advance myself both in the personal & professional realm than worry about a testimonial. It’s not that we don’t have the certifications necessary to award individuals but it isn’t at the core of why we offer the program. We intend to equip individuals with skills not papers; competencies not testimonials and valuable networks not worthless resumes. This is the core of what we do and I am hoping that we will ever get to a point that academic credentials don’t have as much weight compared to the skills & competencies an individual has. Getting to this point will mean that individuals can get back to reading and pursuing knowledge with value for that knowledge rather than the testimonial they stand to get at the end of it.

We need a reading culture to be in tune with our society, our being and to be able to develop solutions to our challenges as a society. Reading for testimonials won’t help us do this and this should worry us.

“One glance at a book and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for 1000 years. To read is to voyage through time.” – Carl Sagan

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