So Bill Gates is proud to introduce one of his top employees on the grounds that they were both at Harvard at the same time and that this school colleague always outshone him; the irony here is that Gates dropped out of Harvard and went on to create Microsoft and then hired that same bright colleague to work for him.
Imagine some corporation is hiring CEOs and they ask Elon Musk to submit a resume as they will like to consider him for a position; also in their lineup for consideration are Warren Buffet and Jeff Bezos, who are also asked to submit their academic credentials because the requirement for a position with this corporation is that one must have a PhD and irrelevant are the entries in the pages of their bank book.
So having a Dr. before one’s name is sometimes a prerequisite to acquiring a prestigious job in a high-end corporation, to just getting called for an interview. So if one is ok with life as a career student and is prepared to hit the books for long years in the pursuit of a PhD, then so be it.
Then, apart, if one wants to be called Doctor but couldn’t get into med school, getting a PhD in, say, something theological, like studying how Moses parted the Red Sea, might be helpful in attracting bible-toting sheep to your depleted stock. The doctor’s title magnetises followers to one’s ministry which emaciated before now becomes fattened. Because the doctor is said to have a god complex and god is supposed to have a doctor complex, having a doctorate and being called the doc, exalts one to the transcendence of something akin to divinity.
All this is provoked by the report of a Jamaican PhD student losing her appeal to have her academic thesis revisited and for her to be duly awarded her doctorate. One sympathises with this poor student who has been in limbo over this matter for a decade while in the meantime Bezos has made billions of dollars just concentrating on what he knows best and for which he doesn’t have the equivalent of a CXC pass, I think.
Harvard University would consider it a privilege and honour to have Bezos, Gates and Buffet accept honorary doctorates from them (if they haven’t yet been so honored) while lesser mortals have to slave night and day for years to qualify for one and then only to be rejected.
Since there has been a proliferation of honorary degrees being shelled out, it makes one wonder whether it wouldn’t make sense to enter into some money-making or artistic venture, get rich and jump the line ahead of academics who are studying and writing extended theses to get one while witnessing their peers get it without opening a book.
One hopes this unfortunate Jamaican student had in the meantime gone on to live her life and not put it on hold while waiting on the mercy of the court to grant her that which she believes she deserves.
As a footnote, someone interested in having his bio written asked me to submit a CV and I replied that it was in the 230 pages of my last book (that long) and in the bio I wrote long years ago of Jai Ramkissoon. My cricket analogy is Viv Richards who learnt to bat with a coconut branch on the beaches of Antigua and Boycott who was coached at the best cricketing schools of England while one became among the greatest of all times the other, well let’s just say, he’s not one you wished to see a bat.
So to those who see the PhD as the last frontier in life’s journey, just remember that the master of the English language became that with just a first degree; that, ultimately, it is about what you do with what you have; no amount of degrees will make you more than what intrinsically you are or destined to be.
By Lester Siddhartha Orie