Thoughts on the myth of qualifications – the “politics of qualifications” – an administrative illusion of control

Recently, I got in an interesting conversation about qualifications for jobs, schooling, and such, that was sort of interesting.  This is basically what I said:  

To be frank, my experience is that qualifications usually don’t mean much.  I’ve learned not to rely on them that much either, nor take them too seriously.  This is not to say that they are of no use . . . this is not what I mean.  Depending on the situation they can be very important and, in some cases, crucial.  But I have seen a great illlusion with qualifications, that they don’t quite appear as they seem nor do the represent what they seem to represent.  In fact, there has developed a lot of “politics” around qualifications and, just like politics, there is a lot of silly and stupid things going on now as a result.  Examples of things I’ve seen include:

  • They are overvalued. 
  • They are distorted. 
  • They are used for manipulation of people.
  • They are used as excuses to hire/not hire or accept/not accept.
  • They are used only to satisfy administrations ideas of “qualifications”.
  • They are not reflective of realistic requirements.
  • They can be used almost like a ‘currency’ (“supply and demand”).   I’ve jokingly said that they should put some jobs and schools openings on the stock market . . . with the need for qualifications fluctating with demand!

It seems that, in the 1980’s especially, there developed a myth that qualifications were everything, as if it was a stamp from god on who should be doing what.  Even I, at first, believed this but then things happened which made me question it.  Now, I’m very skeptical.  I sometimes think that we have become a “qualification crazy” society. 

I’ve always said:

“If all the people who created and invented things in the world had to be ‘qualified’ before doing what they did then very little would have of ever happened!”  

I still believe that to be a fact.  I often wonder how many of them would be ‘hired’ if they had to apply for a job to do what they did???  It makes me wonder . . . 

In my life I’ve continually confronted the wall of ridiculous qualification requirements.  In fact, I have always jokingly said that “my life is nothing but listening to how I am not qualified to do anything.”  The problem is that there is truth to this.  No matter my schooling or experience, I never seemed to be “qualified” . . . there was always something wrong.  What I generally found out was that things did not revolve around qualifications at all, even though thats what they said, but other things.  In actuality, things revolved around the “politics of qualifications”.

My first confrontation with this was when I wanted to be an architectural draftsman.  What I found out, and I believe it’s still true today, was that you have to know someone to get a job in architectural drafting.  This is what I was told and this is what I saw too.  Everyone I talked to confirmed it as well.  In other words, they pass all these people by, who know how to do architectural drafting, for someone who usually didn’t know that much about it just because they know someone.  They then told the people who were qualified that they weren’t qualified!  To put it another way:  knowing the right people passes as “qualification”!  But, more importantly, they deliberately told the people that were qualified that they weren’t . . . an outright lie.  My reaction to this was that it began to put the whole ‘qualifications issue’ into doubt.  How can I believe this stuff when they are not practicing what they’re preaching?  They say that they are looking for qualifications but that’s not what made the final decision. 

I have always remembered a conversation I heard in a bookstore in the 1980’s, I think.  I was in the engineering section and several older guys were next to me talking.  One of them was an engineer.  Basically, what the engineer said amounted to this, “I can’t believe what they have to do to pass college nowadays.  There’s no way any of us older engineers could pass this stuff.  They have to take classes on this, that, and the other thing.  They got to get top scores too.  We never had to do that!  I think its peculiar that they have to do all that but we never did . . . and we’re active engineers, we’re the ones designing everything!  If they have to do that to be qualified then does that mean that we’re not qualified?”

The same theme appeared when I considered going to Medical School some years later.  I couldn’t believe the qualifications they required.  You’d have to do something associated with schooling from sun up to sun down (continuous study, extracurricular activities, etc., etc. . . . oh, and being a class President will look good too!).  You also have to practically get straight A’s.  But, yet, in the 1950’s and 60’s, most people being accepted into Medical School had a B average (if I remember right), with no other special “achievements” (they even accepted people with C averages).  We must remember that those people with the B average are the active doctors who have been practicing medicine for decades and created everything the students are learning today! 

In the two cases above the predecessors did less than what students require now, and yet they have created everything the students of today will learn and use.  But the students of today have to meet qualifications their predecessors never had to do.  So is that supposed to make the students of today “better” qualified than their predecessors?

When I was in psychology they told us that we needed a 3.8 GPA and even that wasn’t enough!  They suggested us to do as much extracurricular activities as possible, and do things in school government, volunteering, and so on.  Without that, you may not be accepted.  I couldn’t believe it.  I knew what was going on.  All this nonsense was to satisify some “image” the administration has on what a more “qualified” person does.  It’s what they “think” the best qualified people will do!  I was told things such as doing all the extracurricular stuff shows “you’re committed”, being in school government shows “you have responsibility”, and volunteering shows you have “initiative” and “willing to sacrifice”, and such.  Is that really what that shows?  I don’t think so, nor does it show a person is more “qualified” (I still see no evidence of that).  Very few people who created and invented things in the world did these type of things.  The problem is that we’re now told we HAVE to do it, but very few of us never would have naturally done it.  When I was in school I don’t know anyone who would have done that.  In fact, I remember talking to other students about it and everyone agreed it would hinder them and turn schooling into a nightmare if they had to do all that.  This means that what we are doing is trying to safisfy an administrative “image”, not because we want to do it or that it reflects us.  In other words, its all a game, of “trying to look good” and not a “reflection of who we are” as the adminstration thinks.  Even if we did do these things it does not reflect our traits or personality . . . we’re just trying to fullifll their requirements so we get accepted.   It shows how “qualification” has become nothing but a game, a great hypocrisy.

I’ve seen many ridiculous things with females and minorities who were all of a sudden “qualified” because of who they were, whereas all of us white American males were told that we weren’t “qualified”.  The problem is that we were usually more “qualified” than they were (in almost every case I saw).  To tell me something, that was so blatantly wrong, to my face and expect me to believe it was insulting.  I wasn’t born yesterday.  That is an outright lie!  It had nothing to do with our “qualifications” . . . it’s because we were the wrong sex or color!  Here you can see that qualifications were used as an “excuse” to eleminate certain people they didn’t want (in this case, for political/legal reasons).  It doesn’t take a genius to see that “qualifications” is often used as a form of ‘justified manipulation’.  In other words, it allows them to make the decisions on who they want, for whatever reason (be it justified or not), and make it look “official”.  This put the ‘qualification issue’ into even more doubt.

How can I believe the idea of qualifications after stuff like that?  You’re telling me that I should believe this stuff?  I don’t think so.

In fact, this questioning of things like this is not new to me.  It’s actually a variation of some of the things I discovered about grades, which I wrote in an article called “Thoughts on how grades really don’t measure anything“.  Here, I’m just going a little bit further with it, seeing a continuation of the problem.

Basically, things like grades, qualifications, etc. are nothing but something that allows the administration to keep an illusionary control on things.  In other words, it’s not a question of being ‘qualified’, it’s a question of being qualified-according-to-the-administration.  Its much like the army:  there’s the correct way and there’s the administrations way.  By ‘administration’ I mean the people who make the final decisions, who are usually a form of administration (managers, human resource, etc).  Being in this position they develop a particular ‘administrative mentality’ which is geared more to keeping an order or control over things in the company or organization.  As a result, the administrative mentality tends to be one of control and organization in respect to the company or organization.  Because of this, their viewpoint tends to be narrow and limited, focusing only on those needs.

So the question becomes:  when has the administration had the knowledge to know whose qualified?  I’ve never seen any real evidence that an administration does know these things.  I don’t believe it does.  But, frankly, I don’t think anybody does.

The problem is that the administration is in a position that it has to somehow control things, even though it does it erroneously.  That’s its function.  If it didn’t then it would be chaos.  One of the problems that the administration must deal with, and keep an order with, is the fact that there are simply too many people nowadays.  How do you know which one to pick?  Who is the best?  Who, really, is qualified?  To be honest, nobody knows.  But the illusion of “qualifications” gives the administration what seems like a “standard” to use, be it wrong or otherwise.  That is what the administration needs to keep an order and that’s what they use.  It’s what their purpose is.  In a way, they have no choice.   I understand that . . .

But, what its saying is that the administration, and its error in judgement, is determining who does what.  Sure, it keeps order but at what cost?  With the way things work now the administration has so much power that jobs, innovation, discoveries, etc. are being determined, not by competent people, but by people the administration “thinks” is competent.  As a result, we have moved into an era of “competant-according-to-administration”For centuries, people’s competency generally determined things.  Now, we must pass through the gate of ‘administrative approval’ to do anything.  This has created something like a bottle neck, in my opinion, in our whole development.  In fact, it may even be a form of stalling.

I feel that “competent-according-to-the-administration” is causing problems, such as:

  • It is hindering development.  I have always felt that the administrative mentality is actually hurting our devlopment, economy, and such by preventing people from doing things.
  • It creates a false illusion of competence.  People think that if the administration thinks its true then it must be true, but this is often not the case.
  • It prevents people from accomplishing things.  Now, it’s not people who are creating . . . it’s the people who the administration has “sanctioned”.  As a result, many people who would normally be creating things CAN’T.

As a result, I see the administrative control as a damper on our society.  In some ways, its like Soviet communism where everything is controlled by the state.  It determines who does what.  It determines what is to be done.  It determines how it is to be done.  The Soviet government basically strangled Russia to death.  Though the administration doesn’t have the power of a government, it seems that administrative control is causing a similar strangulation, but in a more mild way, and with similar results.

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