My email inboxes have recently been bombarded with spam excitedly pitching custom-made university diplomas, fake college degrees and transcripts purportedly belonging to “world famous” people. If that wasn’t enough, there are also spam mails meant to entice with offers of “high-end” Rolex replicas for gift-giving. As we celebrate the winter solstice, the holidays and a fast-approaching new year, it’s an appropriate time for reflection on what is false and what is real.
Leaving the Rolex replicas aside for the moment (where they probably belong), the spam mails about faking a diploma or academic transcript must surely cause offense to the belief that an education is something to be earned. The message they send is just the opposite: Education is for sale. It sometimes seems that the broader message from the culture in the form of advertising circulars and other means – especially in December – is that everything is for sale.
But everything isn’t for sale. Education is one of the most valuable gifts anyone can possess. Unlike the new bauble, sweater or latest piece of technology handed over wrapped and tied with a bow, it isn’t to be received passively. It’s to be achieved through effort and persistence.
Once earned, nobody can take education away, either. It doesn’t chip, crack, fade or unravel. Nor does it need dusting, laundering or shelf space to store it.
Maybe it does require a little maintenance of another kind, though. The Fraser fir decorating my house this time of year needs plenty of clean water to prevent its needles from becoming dry and brittle. Education is not so different from that Christmas tree; it could use something fresh in its stand to soak up regularly. The nourishment called for could be a helpful class in an unfamiliar subject or gracefully accepting constructive critique from someone in a position to judge your work.
It’s difficult to imagine what type of person might want an, ahem, education that was simply bought and paid for, not earned. What, exactly, would be the value in that anyway?
So, while it’s mildly entertaining information to know that an expedient shopper could select a new wristwatch and a college education all in a brief excursion through their spam mail links if they were so inclined, I think I’ll pass this season. As the saying goes: All that glitters is not gold.
Hope Yancey is a counselor and freelance writer living in Charlotte, North Carolina