Credential Inflation

A lot of people apparently think it’s important to suggest to the world that they’re something they’re not.  Sometimes they get away with such things but usually, someone figures out the lie and the jig is up.

Plenty of people, for example, lie on their resume:  they boast of degrees they never earned, graduate studies they never undertook, job titles they never held, work responsibilities they never exercised, and more.

In the world of internet dating in which The Curmudgeon once dwelled, women would regale him with tales of such credential inflation.  The one that always seemed strangest was men claiming to be taller than they actually are.  That’s a pretty tough one to pull off because if you tell a woman you’re six feet tall and when you meet she sees you’re not a hair above five-nine, then the very first thing she’s going to think upon meeting you is “Oh, this guy’s a liar.”

Which is probably not the best way to start a relationship.

In Philadelphia, a man running for city council claimed he was once a member of the Green Berets.  He wasn’t.  He was elected anyway:  Philadelphians are nothing if not accepting of mediocrity and dishonesty.

Military experience appears to be a popular form of credential inflation.  For some reason, men like to claim they experienced the thrill of the fight even when the closest they ever got to battle was feeling emotional exhaustion at the end of the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan.

And remember what claiming proximity to battle did to the career of NBC anchorman Brian Williams?  Williams can now be seen on his own 11 p.m. MSNBC program, which puts him about three steps away from reading the farm price reports on a local cable access program in Kansas.

And into the great tales of credential inflation files now goes Mark Chelgren, a member of the Iowa state senate whose official biography – well, to be more precise, what was once his official biography – asserted that he held a business degree.

Which is not overwhelmingly impressive but it still an achievement of sorts.

But it turns out that Chelgren doesn’t have a business degree.

He has a business certificate.

A business certificate from the company that owns the Sizzler restaurant chain.

It seems that when Chelgren was nineteen he got the kind of job a lot of nineteen-year-olds get, working at his neighborhood Sizzler.  The people who ran the restaurant liked what they saw, wanted to get him into management, and put him into a Sizzler management training program from which he eventually earned a certificate.

Which is not nothing.  There is absolutely nothing wrong, and nothing to be looked down upon, about getting a certificate in restaurant management from a restaurant chain training program.  Plenty of good, bright people earn a living running restaurants.  It’s an honorable profession.

But it’s not a business degree.

Which Chelgren didn’t entirely understand.

He told the Associated Press that he’s learned that “…apparently a degree and a certificate are different.”

This wasn’t, moreover, an instance in which the assertion about someone’s education was made without that someone’s knowledge.  A clerk in the Republican office of Iowa’s state senate gave a draft of his biography, complete with the assertion about the business degree, to Chelgren for his review.

“It was given to me to approve and I thought it was adequate.”

Which raises the question of which is worse:  someone who lies about having a degree or someone who doesn’t understand the difference between a company training program and a four-year college degree.

Circumstances suggest in this particular case it’s the latter because there’s further evidence:  Chelgren has proposed a bill in the Iowa legislature that would require “partisan balance” among faculty members who teach at state colleges in Iowa.


As reported by the Washington Post,

…a job candidate who is seeking a position as a professor or instructor would not be hired if his or her political party affiliation as of their hire date would ‘cause the percentage of the faculty belonging to one political party to exceed by ten percent the percentage of the faculty belonging to the other political party.’

Because Chelgren, a Republican, apparently doesn’t want too many people at public colleges in Iowa teaching Democratic math.

Or left-wing physics.

Or secular humanism geology.

Based on the man’s reaction to the discovery of his inflated credentials and his subsequent legislative activity, it seems we’re on fairly solid grounds in concluding that Chelgren isn’t a liar.

Just an idiot.

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