By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Theory of Prestigious Mediocrity

In the proverbial rat race for tokens of prestige, academia looms large. An honor or degree that is considered prestigious is highly valued, even if the recipient ends up not doing much of anything worthwhile with it.

I am sure many of you could share some anecdotes on this theme. Here are mine:

1. The Phi Beta Kappa graduates who are strikingly imbecillic and mediocre;

2. The holders of advanced research degrees lacking any trace of intellectual intuition even in their fields of specialty.

Often, we are surprised at the level of mediocrity of those holding such honors and degrees. Well, experience teaches us not to be surprised. The theory of prestigious mediocrity explains why.

Any large group will have a large number of mediocrities.

Most honors and degrees are widely distributed or distributed to a number of persons too large to escape mediocrity.

Hence, mediocrity is inevitable.

What are the practical consequences to this reality?

1. Be very skeptical of judging by credentials alone whether as a consumer or simply as an observer. A lawyer who advertises his Phi Beta Kappa key may be an utter dolt. The holder of a degree, even an advanced degree, from a prestigious institution may be a complete dimwit.

2. As we devalue credentialism, we can focus more on personal character and talent

3. As we focus more on character and talent, we end up finding and rewarding quality as opposed to mediocrity.

Many common sense persons recognize and follow the above, but the truth is too often kept under wraps. There is a vast, informal conspiracy of silence to keep the deception under wraps. Too many mediocrities want to benefit and want their children to benefit from our superstitions about prestige.

(Image in public domain)