(An updated version of this post can also be found on the Life Without School blog.)
“Credentialism has existed for centuries in one form or another as groups with an information or knowledge advantage have tried to maintain their position of superiority with everything from guilds and associations to secret societies and esoteric languages. And even though teachers and educators have noble intentions, their position in our economy, by design is dependent upon a psychology of the scarcity of knowledge.” Quoted from here.
It doesn’t take having a credential to know how to share knowledge. And it doesn’t take a teacher in order for someone to learn. In our society, information is not scarce. And when there’s no scarcity of knowledge, there’s no need for credentials in order for an individual to learn from someone.
So what is the purpose of a teaching credential when one person is sharing knowledge with another? What’s the point of a credential when one is seeking knowledge? When knowledge seeking is coming from the learner, no credentials are necessary. A credential is necessary when the learner is a captive audience of the person who is teaching.
In a world where information and knowledge are free and easy to attain, it’s very difficult to control how and when they are dispersed. In a world where teachers have no particular advantage in accessing knowledge than anyone else, what does a credential mean? What is the purpose of going to school for hours a day if information that we need can be researched and found in an instant? Who are credentials appealing to?
I have several “credentials” that I can list on a resume. It might get my foot in the door. But if I am working with someone to help them, my credentials don’t matter. It’s imperative that I have a way to share knowledge with them that allows them to fly on their own. The focus should be to give them the tools to be able to move forward in their goals. Giving them less by focussing on how much they have or haven’t learned would be a disservice to them.
In other words, a good teacher, just like a good therapist, has the number one aim of putting their student in a position where they do not need their teacher anymore. Or where the student sees their teacher as a resource, not as a dependency. Credentials have the opposite effect. Being under the power of someone with credentials makes it much harder to pull away and find one’s own way. Take the credentials away, and it is much easier to let go, both on the part of the teacher, and on the part of the student.
Unless, of course, the aim is NOT independency. If the aim to keep the student dependent on the teacher, and on the system that the teacher is working with, credentials are absolutely essential.
If the aim is to show the student how to be independent in a society where knowledge is freely available, credentials are irrelevant.