Monday, July 16, 2012

Lies and bogus credentials

Lies, according to Plato, are not only evil in themselves, but infect the soul of those who utter them. A very uncompromising view that insists adherence only to the truth, not allowing any room for white or convenient lies. This kind of moral life that Plato seems to suggest is very difficult to sustain, for lying becomes unacceptable in whatever circumstances.

To Plato and others who subscribe to this rigid moral standard, lying is actually a double crime. To tell a lie, one must know the truth. And knowing the truth but concealing it results in committing a double crime.

But in reality, sometimes the truth need not always be the whole truth. There are those who are vey skillful in masking the truth, in putting up pretences that sometimes are taken as the honest truth. This is very common nowadays when people try to embellish their educational credentials, such as deliberately misrepresenting an Ivy League education or possessing an advanced degree in economics, computer science, or winning scholarship grants or honours in college.

The fact of dropping out of school as a caché seems reserved only for a very few who have achieved enormous success in later life such as the likes of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Their achievements dwarf anything before, like training or any course or seminar mentionable that could have prepared them to succeed. To some of us who are less intellectually endowed, education—or to be more specific, a college or university degree from a reputable school—becomes the golden ticket in assuring acceptance or ease of accessing the corridors of wealth and power in today’s society. No wonder students in their thousands have taken to the streets of Montreal to protest the skyrocketing increase in college-tuition rates in Quebec. Nowadays it is hard to get a job without a college or university degree.
Diploma Mill. Photo courtesy of Sfaiez. Click link to view "How a Dog Earned a Life
Experience OnLine MBA Degree,"
There are others, however, who have cleverly managed to outfox the classroom and its rigid rules of learning by having their diplomas or credentials manufactured with the sole intent of moving up the social ladder. The CEO of Yahoo! quit earlier this year when it was discovered his degree in computer science was bogus. In 2006, the CEO of RadioShack stepped down after he had exaggerated his accomplishments at a California Bible College. In 2002, the share price of Bausch+Lomb plummeted when its CEO admitted that his MBA was nonexistent.

Even the academia is not even spared when one would think they are the best equipped in filtering out counterfeit degrees. The vice dean of the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education was forced out when it was revealed that he never earned the PhD listed in his resumé. In 2010, a senior vice president of Texas A&M lost his job for faking both his master’s and doctorate degrees. He also garnished his CV with a fiction about having served as a Navy Seal.

In 2008, Toronto Star’s Dale Brazao reported about an investigation that uncovered close to 220 Canadians with bogus credentials, from one holding a fake MD degree from St. Regis University, a phony school, to a law student who submitted a faked bachelor’s degree to gain admission to Osgoode Hall Law School. The third-year law student was even offered an articling position with a Bay Street law firm when law school students were having difficulty getting articling positions. The Star investigation also exposed Peng Sun, a York University graduate who forged university degrees from real Canadian universities for $4,000.

Faking college degrees are a multi-million dollar industry, according to the Star investigation, and even threaten government security. The gang the Toronto Star busted raked in more than $7 million in sales to 131 countries, selling everything from high school diplomas to PhDs and medical degrees. Dozens of U.S. government employees were on the list, including a White House staff member, National Security Agency employees, a senior State Department official, and a Department of Justice employee.

Surprisingly, a fake diploma can easily be obtained on-line. A company that specializes in fake diplomas advertises itself as the “#1 source for 100% premium diploma fakes from both popular schools and schools that no longer operate!” According to its website, the company has in its stock the largest database of diploma documents anywhere, which allow them to guarantee the most authentic replica diplomas. Their products include fake high school diplomas, fake college degrees, online degrees, fake university degrees, fake GEDs, college certificates, fake TESOLS, etc.
Fake Diploma. Photo courtesy of fakediplomas. The company that sells
this diploma advertises that it is the best in authentic-looking novelty
 replacement degrees,
Of course, these fake diplomas are for entertainment purposes only, not to be used to garnish a resumé or a job application. These phony diplomas are sold as novelty documents that look and feel real, but are designed to trick family and friends. It’s absolutely not illegal to purchase this type of documents. But these are not the fake diplomas we are referring to.

Credentials, whether one’s diploma or alma mater, are all that matter over everything else. There are high expectations when one earns a degree from the country’s best schools. American presidents elected to lead the most powerful nation in the world are most often schooled in Ivy League universities, either from Harvard or Yale. British prime ministers usually come from Oxford or Cambridge, and so with the leaders of the rest of the world—being trained if not in foreign schools, in the best schools in their countries. The same can be said of business and industry captains, they’re traditionally from the best schools, too.

In the Philippines, politicians and business leaders are by and large products of the University of the Philippines (U.P.), Ateneo de Manila University or La Salle University. Among these schools, U.P. seems to carry the most aura of excellence and association with historical events, talking about the Diliman Commune or the Barricades of 1969, or the fact it was the hotbed of student activism during the ’60 s and ’70s, for instance.

It wasn’t a huge surprise that the U.P. Alumni Association in Toronto would be confronted not so long ago with an accusation that one of its members faked his credentials or pretended he was a U.P. grad in order to gain membership. Such was the big deal its members would give weight to a U.P. education, as if it meant the world for them to set foot in the university’s hallowed grounds.

I remember the time when I was a second year student at U.P., when my cousin and I were trying to win the hearts of two young lovely sisters. My cousin, whose mother died after giving birth to him, and I were born in the same month and were both breast-fed by my mother. So he was more like a brother than a cousin to me. It was after our second date with the sisters that he confided about pretending he was also studying at U.P. The truth was, he was still finishing high school because I left him two years behind in grade school. I played along with my cousin’s little scheme and, if we were to follow Plato’s strict moral compass, then I could also be faulted for keeping mum. It was a good thing we were never put to test by the sisters; otherwise, either one of us could have failed. But that was a harmless youthful prank, no damage was done.

The table changes when one obtains a fake degree and utilizes it in gaining entry to the social class or a higher paying job; this becomes morally wrong. To many of us, credentials signify as if they represent everything. Especially when the diploma comes from a well-regarded institution of learning. It becomes a million-dollar coin that can attract counterfeiters.

When society continues to treat education or higher education not for its original purpose of higher learning but as a golden ticket to a high-paying job or to membership in the elite social class, we will always have those who would take the risk to leap class ranks and counterfeiters who would jump on the opportunity to make a million bucks. Of course, regulations are needed to run after diploma mills and counterfeiters. But unless we change our fundamental view that the aim of education is more than success in landing a lucrative job or a means to jack up reputation for desperate people whose careers are going nowhere, we will always have to co-exist with phony degrees and dreamers of white collar achievement.

No comments:

Post a Comment