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Resume Padding at MIT

MIT Dean Admissions Marilee Jones got pretty good at spotting applicants who had padded their resumes. Nevertheless, the school fired her (April 27). She had padded hers!

Padded it quite a bit, actually. She'd claimed BS and MS degrees from Union College, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Albany Medical College. That's how she'd landed her first job 28 years ago. But she'd only studied at Rensselaer for a year and had never graduated anywhere.

They caught someone in Rochester doing that too. She had been director of the Urban League. Alas, I cannot recall her name. Turned out she'd fudged everything. The lawyers, I heard, were going to have a field day, retrying every case in which she had testified!

Sheepandgoats, righteous as he is, could never countenance lying. I suppose you have to kick these people to the curb without mercy. But amidst all the indignant blather, one fact should not be ignored. These two had proved themselves excellent at their jobs!

Frankly, you cannot read Marilee Jones without liking her. She wrote an editorial for USA Today (1/5/03) in which she related a note she'd received from an applicant's dad: It read "You rejected my son. He's devastated. See you in court."

The next day came a note from the applicant himself: "Thank you for not admitting me to MIT. This is the best day of my life."

In an era where hard-driving, ambition-blinded parents can push their more have-a-life offspring to the point of suicide, Ms. Jones offered unheard of nurturing and common sense: lay off on the self-stress, enjoy life, stay healthy, stop trying to be perfect. MIT officials, even as they canned her, were universal in their praise. "She's really been a leader in the profession," said her predecessor Michael Behnke. Her peers concurred. Ms. Jones was "one of those people who was trying to bring sanity back to the whole admissions world. She's spoken persuasively and thoughtfully both to parents and admissions deans about restoring the humanity to this process and taking some pressure off kids," said a fellow dean of admissions Bruce Poch. But now she's gone and insanity can reassert itself.

The surface lesson here has to do with always-tell-the-truth and so forth. But the real lesson I've not yet heard anyone state: what a load of horse manure all these "credentials" really are. They exist for two reasons, neither of them noble.

1. They make hiring easier, since you can cart two thirds of all resumes to the trash, unread.

2.  They inflate the education industry, ever eager to dream up new areas of expertise, for which they can teach and write outrageously overpriced textbooks.

The process serves to eliminate the creative and innovative folks in favor of the plodders and the dull.

My wife, Mrs Sheepandgoats, and I ran up against this mindset when we set out to homeschool our kids, many years ago. There were plenty of educators who huffed at our not being certified teachers. It led us to uncover the truth that certified teachers taught absolutely no better than uncertified ones. (yet they cost far more) Catholic schools rarely use certified teachers, yet achieve results as good or better than public schools!

It's in this light that we can understand the recent Democrat and Chronicle headline: "Computer Workers May Have to Report Child Abuse." (5/2/07) Lawmakers in two states think this is a good idea, and it's hard to resist a notion like this, since anyone who does obviously thinks pedophilia is a good thing. Apparently, the technician at Best Buy and even the shop two doors down now, should this become law, will have to alert the cops when they spot something unsavory on your hard drive. I suspect most of them already do, just on the basis of being decent people

Michael Wendy, spokesman for a the Computing Technology Industry Association, based in Illinois, offered some common sense hedging. Sure, technicians want to help out, he said, but they're concerned about liability should they miss something.

As well they should be. Lawyers, undoubtedly, will love this new proposal. As will insurance people. Technicians will have to load up on liability insurance. Repairs will be so expensive that no one will bother....you'll just junk your machine and buy another. And repairmen will need a Master's Degree to touch your machine, with advanced courses in sociology and human sexuality.

Educators will like that.



Tom Irregardless and Me             No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'



I applaud your editorial, Tom1 You hit the nail on the head. In my personal life, I have experience in this. I have been denied employment for positions that my professional experience qualifies me for because I do not have a BS Degree (I love how the acronym works out). I understand why degrees are required, however.

As you said, it is a good way to weed people out. In many cases, it is also a good way to ensure that applicants have a basic minimum set of skills and knowledge. The only problem I have for this is when positions require (or prefer) degrees when one isn't really necessary.

For example: banks require degrees to sell mortgages. When I spent time as a mortgage officer for a broker, a degree wasn't necessary. The concepts were not difficult to learn. A standard reading, writing, and arithmetic test would have weeded out those who would not do well.

Yet I have seen that more and more adults who are graduating college with degrees don't have adult level reading and language skills. This scares me, but it is becomming more common. At least, that is my personal experience.

So although I agree with you on many points, I must differ in opinion in that degrees are simply a way for "education" companies (ie: schools, universities, tech schools, trade schools) to make money, there are times when it is a necessary precondition.

Of course, I think that the example you've cited is an extreme case. I also think that the school board is over-reacting. A suspension would get the message across without having to lose the important and effective staff member. Perhaps a mandate to have a degree by a specific date. Then again, nobody asked my opinion...


Much enjoyed reading this, Tom! Thanks for alerting me. If consequent musing brings anything to mind worth sharing I'll return to share it.

tom sheepandgoats

Moristotle and I have a tradition of exchanging comments, usually on opposite sides of the fence, but always with mutual respect and good cheer. He dwells in academia, I hear, at North Carolina University, so I thought he might like this post. His comments are always insightful.

Romulus Crowe

I used to live near a welder. He was very good at it, and worked for many years for a company that built agricultural trailers. He fixed up my car several times.

Then he lost his job. Not because his trailers fell apart, not because he forgot how to weld, but because new laws insisted that he couldn't be a welder unless he had a formal qualification.

Years of experience, and a company that was happy with his work, counted for nothing. Without that piece of paper with 'This man is a welder' written on it, he couldn't find work - and by then he was too old to get any kind of help with finding a place on the expensive courses. Courses he should have been teaching!

So now he's a building-site foreman, and the trailers are welded together by people with qualifications, but little experience.

If I come across a tractor with a new trailer on the road, I keep well back.

tom sheepandgoats

They are now reporting that Marilee Jones did indeed earn a degree, in biology, from some fleabitten no-name college back where she comes from.

Kidding aside, Im sure it's a very competent school. It only lacks the high profile necessary to wow them at MIT.


peace Tom,
This post really resonates with the last piece I had written.

I am becoming disenchanted with formal schooling and my family I, are also considering home-schooling based on Gatto's critiques of public school and Solomon among others.

Have you read of the latest scandal in the loan (shark) industry and their cozy relationships with Financial aid directors? It got me so mad and brought the business aspect of this whole schooling enterprise.

How did your children fare with homeschooling? Do you have any posts on it? Was it as daunting and challenging as it seems to be?

tom sheepandgoats

I've not yet posted anything about homeschooling. This one was my first, and it was barely a mention. But I will get to it. It was an enjoyable time, one that I do not regret. Our kids were never in school, save for one brief stretch apiece in 6th grade.

The kids are both in their mid-twenties now, so this was a while ago.

I told my wife how your boy learned to stomp on the floor to get your instant attention before the downstairs neighbors complained. She loved it.

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