Yesterday I started writing about Randall Collins' The Credential Society. Collins offers a strong critique of the way we continuously ratchet up the educational credentials needed to even be considered for a job. Collins argues that we invest so much in educational credentials because we need a way to create arbitrary breaks in the status structure, so that some groups (the ones with the credentials) can monopolize the better jobs. The actual education, he argues, has little relation to doing the job.
Collins makes a strong proposal to abolish compulsory credential requirements ("you must have X degree to be considered for the job"). He fears, though, that what is likely to happen is that credential inflation will continue, which will inspire a further round of ratcheting up.
In one way, credential inflation is just a relative game. If a job that took a high school degree before now takes a college degree, then everyone just competes to move up a step, without changing relative position. The same number of people, drawn from the same classes, end up with the job as before -- it just takes them longer to get there.
There is one calendar, though, that it more imperious than the academic one: the biological clock for babies. Now that all positions are legally open to women, women as a group have been doing very well in competing in school to prepare for the top positions -- doing better, in fact, than men. However, highly credentialed women face a conflict that highly credentialed men do not face nearly as much: how to fit in having and raising babies with the endless credentials chase?
Credential inflation hurts women more than men for irreducible biological reasons. Babies are reason enough to consider fighting the credential society.