Fake news? What about the fake degrees?

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This post has nothing to do with politics, but rather an extension of our feverish willingness of the past and present to simply denounce and ignore things we disagree with, regardless of facts. It currently presents itself as proclaiming “fake news” and ignoring the following with reckless abandon.

Now, I’m not suggesting we embrace that behaviour, but I do believe information should be scrutinised, some pieces more heavily than others. Starting with the news / mass media is ideal, but what about the qualifications, degrees and credentials people say they have, with marginal to no proof to back it up? Why is no one screaming “fake news!” at them?

In 2012 I graduated with a double degree in Teaching & Design and Technology from the University of Newcastle, Australia. Or did I?

I did, I really did, but there’s no way to prove it without physically requesting a document from my University or me showing you my actual transcript. Regardless, you would probably have read that first sentence and believed me without it anyway!

I, and possibly yourself, have hired people where their qualification or formal accreditation plays the key component of the position, and not followed up to ensure they actually have them, or that they are valid. I’ve heard this story told through Australia, and surprisingly several Scandinavian countries, including Norway and Sweden. The hiring managers I have spoken to mostly proclaim that “there’s a lot of trust” in the hiring process, so their concerns are apparently mitigated… by “trust”.

We can debate the fundamentals of trust, but there are now entire industries setup to perform background checks during the hiring process (that weren’t around 15–20 years ago), but even the majority of those can be slow and expensive to perform.

I don’t really think trust is good enough. We’re all somewhat guilty of padding a resume, talking up a skill or adding “Microsoft Office Expert” to our LinkedIn profile. But at the end of the day, should we be trusting random people when they say that they have a piece of paper, a certain skill or accreditation? Is a cursory glance at a print out good enough? Is it our laziness, our apathy, or our incompetence the thing that stops us from interrogating qualifications with the same vitriol we do tweets?

You could argue that there’s minimal harm in lacking qualifications, people will get “found out eventually”, or that every industry is impacted by “fake news” in the form of missing, expired or simply non-existent degrees and qualifications. But what about the health industry? You know, the people trying to make sure you don’t die.

In several (slight underestimation) countries around Europe, there are many unskilled migrant workers signing up for and working in positions they’re not qualified for, failing to even then receive any additional training*. In many industries that’s par for the course, but in health, the potential for harm is exponentially higher.

You could argue that this is a straw-man argument, and fake qualifications aren’t a real problem. Sure, you’re welcome to believe that if you want, but simply head to your favourite search engine and search for:

fake doctor <my country>”, then search for “buy fake accreditation”.

If the combination of stories of doctors operating without the correct qualifications in your country, and the ease at which you yourself can buy a fake GED transcript or degree doesn’t shock you, then perhaps we have a bigger problem.

It’s time our accreditation management and verification processes shifted with us to keep up. I’ll be talking more about our current failing accreditation methods and what can be done more over the next few weeks.