“Go not to Wittenberg” –Hamlet, Act I
Once upon a time in the country called Wonderfuland there was a 500-year old institution named Skarewe University. It issued Diplomas.
Just about everyone went to Skarewe University. They spent exactly four years studying exactly 16 required courses in thisology and thatology. They did this to get a Diploma.
Diplomas were very valuable. If you showed one to a prospective employer he gave you more money. No one knew why.
But the country fell on uneasy times. Even the students at Skarewe University caused trouble. They demanded this and they demanded that. And they got everything they demanded. Until, finally, they couldn’t think of anything else to demand.
“I know,” said one student one day, “let’s demand that they abolish Diplomas!”
And not having anything else to do, the students went on a Diploma Strike.
The President of Skarewe University was stunned. “If we don’t issue Diplomas,” he said, “we will lose our standing in the academic community.”
The business community was shocked. “Without diplomas,” employers said, “how can we tell a college graduate from an uneducated man?”
Editorial writers viewed this with alarm. “These radicals would destroy the very purpose of dear old Skarewe U.,” they wrote. “They should be forced to accept their Diplomas whether they like it or not.”
The trustees were furious. “Abolishing Diplomas will set our University back 500 years,” they thundered. “It will become a medieval institution!”
And it did.
From the very day that Diplomas were abolished, 64.3 percent of the students quit to go engage in more financially-rewarding pursuits. And those who were left found parking spaces for their cars—for the first time since the Middle Ages.
Just as in the Middle Ages, students now attended Skarewe University solely to gain knowledge and wisdom.
And as there were no required courses, teachers who imparted knowledge and wisdom gave well-attended lectures. And those who didn’t, didn’t. Just as in medieval times.
Just as in medieval times, students pursued only the studies that interested them and read only the books that stimulated them. And all, being constantly interested and stimulated, were dedicated scholars.
Thus it was that Skarewe University became what it had been 500 years before—a vast smorgasbord of knowledge and wisdom from which the student could select that which delighted and enriched him.
So everybody was happy. The President was happy to head such a distinguished community of scholars. The trustees were happy there were no more riots. And the taxpayers were happy they no longer had to purchase educations for those who didn’t want them.
Even prospective employers were happy. For, oddly enough, even without a Diploma, you could still pick out the applicant who had gone through college—because for the first time in 500 years, he was a well-educated man.
—Arthur Hoppe, 1968