Debate Magazine

Fake Diploma

By Stevemiranda

A friend was giving me a hard time today about PSCS.

We don’t require that students earn all the credits necessary for a Washington State high school diploma. We offer a full slate of classes that will help prepare students for college, trade school, travel, work, military service, or whatever path they choose upon graduation. But we don’t require any of it. It’s up to the student and the student’s family to decide what academic classes will help them get where they want to go.

We do, however, require graduating students to do the work necessary to earn a PSCS diploma. That means, 1) completing a senior project, which represents a meaningful achievement accomplished over time that advances a personal passion; 2) engaging in a year-long process of writing a credo, or personal statement about who you are and what you believe in; and 3) acting as a leader and role model, and proudly honoring the school’s core commitments: engage the community, act with courage, practice integrity.

“Nobody cares about your school’s fake diploma,” my friend teased. “Microsoft isn’t hiring anyone because they flash a PSCS diploma.”

I don’t know enough about Microsoft’s hiring practices to qualify as an expert. But I suspect flashing a Washington State diploma wouldn’t do much either; anyone hoping to get hired by the software company would likely need to demonstrate a more significant achievement than merely passing the minimum academic standards established by the state.

But I understood her point. She’s not the first person to look at me suspiciously when I explain that we offer our own, unique diploma.

To me, this doesn’t mean that PSCS needs to compromise its standards to play society’s game. In fact, my impulse is to do the opposite. My goal is to continue educating society about the emptiness of the process that our traditional schools offer young people. Manipulating students with extrinsic motivators like grades, making them sit through required classes in which they don’t get to utilize their signature strengths, and encouraging them to meet minimum standards that blind them to their potential are all policies that ignore the most robust findings in social science of the past 40 years.

A high school diploma is a demonstration that the student is literate, has basic mathematical abilities, and the capacity to be compliant and follow directions—nothing more. Soon, we’ll be calling that the “fake diploma.”

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