Speaking as someone who graduated — barely, and a semester late — from an unexceptional state university, I found this essay both welcome and consoling. It’s hard to accept nowadays, but the fact remains: we are more than what it says on our diplomas. Much more. Have we lost the ability to see that?
From Elizbeth Scalia, writing at First Things:
Perhaps the over-reliance upon credentials is connected to the undervaluing of faith in society. In the past, people of faith had the examples of holy men and women who managed to exhibit enormous wisdom through grace, whether they were exceedingly well educated, like St. Augustine, or not educated at all, like St. Catherine of Siena. Saints are full of wonder; it is their ability to wonder, in fact, that allows them to be open to grace, the gate of all of their theological and philosophical brilliance.
And when faith was common to kings and paupers, self-evident brightness and acumen were appreciated and acknowledged. People understood that there was more than one way to learn, or that ideas could be burnished and gifts could be nourished by sheer curiosity sustained on a pilot-light of passion, even without the consent and certification of an appointed body.
As recently as sixty years ago society was willing to take some things on faith, and that habit-of-faith allowed room for instinct to have a voice; it permitted one to try people out—to give a guy a chance to prove himself. Lacking faith, lacking a mindset that can trust in possibilities, there is nothing to fall back on but credentials.