How will credential-less children survive?

“How will credential-less children survive in our highly credentialised society?”

It is only highly credentialised for those who believe in that sort of thing. But the notion that children who choose not to get the standard academic credentials are thereby unable to get prestigious high-paying work is complete nonsense. Indeed, there are many forward-thinking organisations, companies, entrepreneurs, founders (and even some governments!) that value and seek people who have precisely not taken the standard route. Some of the amazing job opportunities credential-less children taken seriously have had (and these are just the ones that I have heard about!) would astonish you. They are the kind of opportunities people spend many years, vast amounts of money, and huge efforts (not to mention putting themselves through 15+ years of utterly miserable so-called education) to get, and still fail – once in a lifetime (or indeed many lifetimes) opportunities.

I myself once got a very prestigious job for which I did not have the right qualifications. This was before the internet, in the 1980s. Upon deciding that that was the career I wanted to pursue, and realising that my qualifications were in entirely the wrong fields, I laboriously wrote out my CV and hand-wrote a letter to a number of relevant firms in the phone book, proposing that they should take me on and train me, and giving my reasons for thinking myself worth the opportunity despite my not having the qualifications they would expect. I received three amazing offers and chose the one that spoke to me most after they all interviewed me. Two of those firms had a daunting list of required qualifications potential applicants should have. The other firm was not even looking or intending to take on any new trainees. They just really liked my letter.

Is it really true that one needs the credentials expected? Not for many creative employers worth working for. I have personally witnessed a business owner offering great jobs with fabulous career prospects to: someone working in a low-end job in a supermarket, someone working as a barista, and to someone working in a book shop. He was offering those people these good jobs not because of any qualifications but because of how brilliant they were with customers. Similarly, I know dynamic tech firms look not for credentials but for knowledge and enthusiasm and creativity.

Having said all that, many individuals (including people raised coercively) choose a different route through life, for example, creating passive income, creating businesses themselves, travelling the world, or living financially frugally for the freedom that affords (as opposed to having to have a well-paid, high-powered job to pay for all the stuff and service all the debt etc.). Other people look at how insanely expensive college degrees are, and choose to invest their money in appreciating assets instead. Or choose to create their own business, providing jobs for other people. There are many possibilities in life.

Finally, it is completely untrue that children taken seriously cannot get qualifications if they choose. Plenty of children who have lived free lives as children at some point choose to get credentials and pursue paths requiring credentials, including ending up in academia. Such children just have not wasted most of their childhood locked in an institution bored out of their mind instead of doing something more interesting. One un-schooled child (now and adult, and says it is fine to share this) had not a single maths lesson ever until she suddenly decided at the age of 13 to try school to see what it is like, and sought help going through the school mathematics curriculum. She had one short session a day with a mathematically inclined person, who says that she zipped through the entire school mathematics curriculum (eleven or more years’ worth!) in six weeks, with ease. When a person actively wants to acquire a particular body of knowledge or get a particular credential, it is so much easier to achieve what they want to achieve, than it is to get credentials when one is (at best) half-hearted about it, getting them out of fear of a credential-less future instead of because they wholeheartedly want to get them.

If anything, children taken seriously have more choices in life than others, not fewer. There are many possibilities for people whose vision has not been blinkered and whose creativity has not been hobbled by the narrow path most children are forced along.

See also:

Sarah Fitz-Claridge, 2022, Taking Children Seriously FAQ: ‘How will credential-less children survive?’,

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