Monday, June 25, 2007

paper on the wall

“It is a thousand times better to have common sense without education than to have education without common sense.”
- Robert Green Ingersoll:

This is for child and family counselors, treatment institutions, and every government entity that does counseling services for kids in custody...

Working in the field I work in I am constantly bombarded by individuals that seem to place far more stock in paper than they do in individuals. Having a degree holds more weight with most people than someone without a degree with 20 years of experience. I’ve seen people promoted to therapist positions just because they had a degree, not in counseling, but in accounting. That particular facility had no interest in a person’s experience with working with kids but rather that they had a piece of paper on the wall. After spending his workweek “counseling” he’d spend his weekends on drinking binges.

I hear it all the time. “This child needs more advanced counseling from a therapist with a Master’s degree or a PhD.” Never mind that such a therapist may have no rapport with kids or has never had experience with growing up with a difficult life. As a counselor don’t ever tell them “I know what you are going through” unless you actually do.

Kids know a fake when they see one.

I see people fresh out of college with their arrogant, I’m better than you, save the world attitude, start life as marriage and family counselors. Kids with no kids of their own trying to teach parents of troubled children how to deal with them. Many adults know fakes when they see one too.

It seems common sense, if you have never been married, what business do you have being a marriage counselor?

So what is the motivation for all of this obsession with paper on the wall? Usually it’s money. Somehow someway an organization gets more money or recognition or whatever with the more “educated” individuals they have working for them.

I’ve known plenty of idiots with degrees.

By no means do I knock education. It is vital. But this wholesale blind adoration of someone’s worth as a counselor, child worker, or whatever kind of therapist is just plain stupid. I know of the story of one woman, unable to afford college, who worked with kids for 20 years. And quite successfully I might add. She was turned down a position where she could be in charge of a program for troubled families because she didn’t have a piece of paper. Rather they would have some wet behind the ears college graduate, that doesn’t know squat about family little alone abuse, depression, or troubled kids, come in and take the reins.

That program is now on the verge of collapse.

Education is not simply memorizing enough information to pass a test. Or being a good BS’r writing papers. Someone who has enough money to go to college, enough brain to memorize information etc...that doesn’t mean they are skilled at counseling at all.

I can remember going to EMT school. While much of the information we learned was essential to our jobs, what was in the books was meant to be a guideline not a bible. The instructor had enough sense to tell us, “When you get out of school, throw the book away.” “The real world is a helluva lot different.”

Just because you have a degree doesn’t make you smart. There are an innumerable amount of people out there that didn’t even graduate high school who have more common sense than some PhD holders. Again, I am not saying drop out of school or don’t seek higher education. I am saying though, don’t get an arrogant attitude because you passed a test.

The best counselors for kids and families are the ones that have been there. Not necessarily the ones that showed up for every class. Counseling is more of a gift than a skill taught with power point bullets. While qualifications are vitally important you had better not place all your trust in someone’s educational accomplishments.

Look at this individual’s educational background:

...graduated from Harvard. After graduation he attended the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, earning a master's degree and a Ph.D. in mathematics. He began a research career at Michigan but made few friends. One of his professors at Michigan, George Piranian, said: "It is not enough to say he was smart." He earned his Ph.D. by solving, in less than a year, a math problem that Piranian had been unable to solve. His specialty was a branch of complex analysis known as geometric function theory. "I would guess that maybe 10 or 12 people in the country understood or appreciated it", said Maxwell O. Reade, a retired math professor...

Sounds like a very brilliant man. One that any business savvy corporation would love to have on the payroll.

His name was Kaczynski. Theodore Kaczynski. Also known as the Unabomber. He killed 3 people with mail bombs and made numerous attempts to kill many more. The paper on his walls didn’t mean he was a good person. And I sure wouldn’t want him working for me.

Here is another guy, which very well could have been one of those counselors that the state or some institution would put so much stock in because of his paper on the wall...

While in school to major in psychology, he would later work as a night-shift volunteer at Seattle's Suicide Hot Line, a suicide crisis center that served the greater Seattle metropolitan and suburban areas. ... became an honors student and was well liked by his professors. ...graduated in 1972 from the University of Washington with a degree in psychology , and soon afterward, he began working for the state Republican Party, which included a close relationship with Gov. Daniel J. Evans. He was a dedicated professional who had been accepted to law school.

Here’s more on this apparently brilliant and well educated man:

On death row, he admitted to decapitating at least a dozen of his victims with a hacksaw. He kept the severed heads later found on Taylor Mountain (Rancourt, Parks, Ball, Healy) in his room or apartment for some time before finally disposing of them. He confessed to cremating Donna Manson's head in his girlfriend's fireplace. Some of the skulls of His victims were found with the front teeth broken out. He also confessed to visiting his victims' bodies over and over again at the Taylor Mountain body dump site. He stated that he would lie with them for hours, applying makeup to their corpses and having sex with their decomposing bodies until putrefaction forced him to abandon the remains. Not long before his death, he admitted to returning to the corpse of Georgann Hawkins for purposes of necrophilia.

In total he killed at least 33 women. His name was Ted Bundy.

Paper doesn’t equal good. Paper doesn’t equal smart. It could indicate a great ability to manipulate. A great ability to memorize words and notes. But a degree does not necessarily equal “professional”, “expert”, or even “qualified.”

Young people should always pursue higher education. But often times we put way too much faith in the paper on someone’s wall. We forget how paper isn’t everything...

His formal education consisted of about 18 months of schooling from unofficial teachers. In effect he was self-educated, studying every book he could borrow.
– Abraham Lincoln 16th President of the United States

It wasn’t the paper, it was the man.

Stay in school. But keep in mind that whatever your title after your name, it doesn’t make you. Experiences, common sense, and the ability to just sometimes shut your mouth and listen to the kid you are counseling is what they need.

The kids could care less about what that paper on the wall says even if you do.