Friday 4 September 2009

Are you qualified?

It’s not a widely known fact about me, it’s a secret I try to keep within a small and intimate circle of friends. It’s not that I’m ashamed you understand, it’s just that I don’t want it to change people’s perceptions of me.

I’m an ordained Minister of Religion.

Yes, you might think it bizarre for someone with my beliefs to be entitled to conduct religious services, marriages, baptisms and funerals but it’s true nevertheless. Before you get all sceptical let me assure you that it IS a real ordination. I got it from the Universal Life Church, a wonderfully amusing web site that describes itself as the “torch bearer of online ordinations and ministries”. If you visit their web site you can instantly be ordained as a Minister. Admittedly it only really works in certain parts of the USA and there are, I believe, certain states that have refused to recognise this silliness. However it IS a true ordination.

But, you might ask, isn’t ordination reserved for the holy, the respectable and the devout? You might think so until you realise quite how many evangelists, particularly the ghastly TV evangelist types have religious qualifications as respectable as mine.

Those of you with DSTV may have seen the awful Joyce Meyer on the Trinity Broadcasting Network channel. “Dr” Meyer does indeed have a doctorate but it comes from the non-accredited “Life Christian University”. She also has various honorary degrees from a bunch of wacky Christian universities in the USA. In fact non-Dr Meyer doesn’t have any qualifications at all. This is the same Joyce Meyer whose ministry is a $90 million per year operation, who travels on a private jet and who lives free in a $2 million home.

The same goes for many of the other TV evangelists such as Benny Hinn and Marilyn Hickey. Their qualifications are as bogus as their “prosperity gospel” teachings that seem to consist of the nothing but demands for money, preferably large quantities of it.

Just last week Botswana was “privileged” to welcome Dr Charles Dixon, whose web site describes him as “an anointed prophet of God”. What interested me was his claim to the title “Dr”. I was intrigued to establish whether “Dr” Dixon has as much of a doctorate as “Drs” Meyer, Hinn and Hickey so I emailed him and asked. I haven’t heard anything back from him yet but maybe I’ll be impressed, maybe it’s a real one. I’ll let you know if I hear back from him.

Please believe that this isn’t an anti-religious rant, it’s just an appeal for consumers not to throw their money at the various crooks who take our money under the guise of religion.

What’s more it’s not just religious qualifications that I think we should question before we part with our money. It’s any qualifications that should be questioned.

In the couple of years, as part of various bits of real, paid work I’ve encountered a number of people with qualifications that I thought needed closer examination. These employees of reputable organisations have claimed to have degrees from places such as Knightsbrdge University, the American Institute of Computer Science, “Madison University”, American Intercontinental Online and Calamus University. The thing that links all these institutions is that none of them are real. They are all crooked diploma mills who “award” degrees for cash rather than hard work. None of them require anyone to do any learning, any research or to publish anything.

So what has this to do with us, with consumers? The danger is that you or I will be tempted to get one of these qualifications. It’s not hard to be tempted. As I’m writing this I can see the BBC News web site. Like many web sites this contains advertisements. One reads: “University Degree USA. MBA, PhD, BA, Degree in 12 months. Study On-line from your own country” and has a link to the web site of the "The University of SouthCentral Los Angeles". This offers a range of degrees, up to doctorate level, for a mere US$850. There are no entry requirements, I can assure you of that. I know because a few weeks ago I emailed this bunch of crooks and applied for one of their $850 PhDs. Despite using an assumed name and claiming to have qualifications from diploma mills I was immediately accepted. They sent me some hilarious documents explaining how I would get my fake PhD by not doing any research, not reading any particular books and basically by sitting on my bottom for a year. The only thing that mattered was the $850.

Curiously, this so-called university demands that it be “subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of British Virgin Islands” which is a little odd for a university claiming to be based in LA. OK, perhaps it’s not particularly surprising because the so-called University of SouthCentral Los Angeles is about as reputable as an educational establishment as is my toilet.

If you are ever tempted to get one of these degrees you really should think again. There is a growing understanding amongst employers of how easily fake degrees can be obtained. You’d be wasting your money, becoming a professional liar and you run the risk of being disgracefully fired.

Is it worth it?

This week’s stars
  • Toro Motiki from Multichoice for excellent service.
  • Cox, a mechanic from Barloworld Volvo for “fantastic service with a smile and looking out for my interest as the customer”.

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