Journal No. 6, Tanner Smith: Having to Scrap for Legitimacy

In our conversation with Selso Villegas, one thing that stood out to me, even beyond a lot of the other interesting things that he said was about why he felt the need to talk about his degrees. He said something to the effect of “if I do not tell people that I have three degrees in science, people do not take me seriously, or feel that I have anything to contribute.” In that moment, I thought back to other moments where I have heard this, as it seems to be a common feeling among non-white males feeling like they always have to prove themselves. It makes me think of one of the manifestations of my privilege as a white male, as people usually assume I am competent, even in situations where I have no idea what I am doing or what I am talking about. This is a horrible double standard that is ingrained within our society, and is one of the tougher ones to eliminate because it is implicit within human interactions. For someone as accomplished as Mr. Villegas to have to tell people about his degrees in order to gain respect is sickening to me, as it must be a cloud that hangs over him, as well as so many others. This is another reminder that we need to keep our implicit biases in mind in how we interact with one another if we want a better world, as everyone should feel as if they will be on even footing when they enter a conversation or meeting with a stranger as far as intelligence is concerned.

2 Replies to “Journal No. 6, Tanner Smith: Having to Scrap for Legitimacy”

  1. As I read your post, I thought extensively of our society’s over emphasis on credentialism. We as a society need to realize that a person’s knowledge and skills should not be evaluated by his or her credentials. Too often, employers judge an applicant based on whether / where he or she went to college. Personally, I believe that the college diploma system is a horrible way for a society to efficiently allocate jobs. It is a major money waste too! What are your thoughts?

  2. Tanner, i thought that was an interesting part of Selso’s talk as well and Jacob raises a good point about how the labor market over-emphasizes credentials. If you’re interested this topic, we call it signaling theory in economics and the seminal work is Michael Spence’s 1973 QJE article “Job Market Signaling”. He shows formally why workers may over invest in education even if the education itself is worthless in terms of adding to worker productivity.

    My personal view on this is that educational institutions still have plenty of incentive to actually educate and not just screen workers and that college is, for a majority, an enriching experience both in terms of developing critical thinking, analytic and social skills as well as (hopefully) building up students capacity for moral reasoning. That said, I partially agree with Jacob that for many students college probably is not worth the cost, but they go because they need the credential.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

© Joseph Guse. All rights reserved.