CZ:Proposals/Should we remove the educational prequisites in place in order to be considered for the Constabulary?

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Complete explanation

This issue asks whether the minimum educational requirement for constables should be scrapped.


As mentioned in the overall summary, the reasoning behind this proposal is:

One: We will need more constables as we grow. We should do our best to increase the potential pool of constables out there.

Two: There is little distinction maturity wise between those who have a college degree and those who don't. The constabulary isn't a position that needs 'educated' men, it needs reasonable and mature people. Whether you work on a factory floor or in an office with a business degree, the natural ability of reasonability and maturity is constant!


A discussion section, to which anyone may contribute.

Hmmn, this is interesting. One of (my) biggest doubts about CZ was its high standards in such areas. When I first started I thought standards such as this would restrict the project and force it into stagnation. I, for one, would tend to agree with this proposal. The role of constable seems a very interesting, and needed one at that. While I do not seek such a position now, I would like the option to be available, without regard to my current level of education. Whether or not I do horribly at that job would have no correlation to whether or not I've had 4 years of college, or even my age. It has more to do with personality types, responsibility, and cool-headed-ness. Just my take on the matter. John Dvorak 21:35, 7 May 2008 (CDT)

We discussed this at some length in the forums a long time ago; it would be good to locate that discussion. I would not like to repeat everything I wrote there.
The reasoning for the "yes" answer given above is unpersuasive. (1) We have all the constables we need; we've never had a shortage that we felt we couldn't handle. (2) It is true that reasonability and maturity are paramount. But they are not the only requirement. Constables must make important decisions that often affect distinguished editors. Also, often, they are asked to interpret editorial rules, or at least recognize that a certain matter is an editorial matter and not in their purview. The ability to make such judgments, as well as the credibility of constables (and their decisions) to our editors, are both enhanced by education. --Larry Sanger 21:43, 7 May 2008 (CDT)
I would say the dissent you offer is unpersuasive too Larry, as a matter of fact :-) Perhaps starting out one's argument like that doesn't help? 1) True, we never had a shortage of constables, but there will be a time when we will need more. 2) To be honest, most of that is management diatribe that really means nothing. "interpret editorial rules, or at least recognize that a certain matter is an editorial matter and not in their purview. The ability to make such judgments, as well as the credibility of constables (and their decisions) to our editors, are both enhanced by education." A three year accountancy degree gives someone responsibility to tell a biology editor that she/he is breaking the rules? I would like to think that anyone, regardless of the rules would be able to tell the difference between rule breaking and not. Denis Cavanagh 05:00, 8 May 2008 (CDT)
I oppose this proposal. Your assumption that anyone is capable of telling the difference between rule breaking and not, is completely false. People have very strong biases in that area, and preconceived ideas about what kind of behaviour is acceptable; and the lengths that people can rationalise such things are quite extreme. But as you admit you are assuming something purely because you enjoy assuming it, you might want to think about it more deeply and see if it actually makes sense.
I believe a 3 year accountancy degree would make a huge difference to someone's accountability, professionalism, rationality, and understanding of accademic standards. It also shows they have a sufficient level of intelligence and capability. And the fact that they chose to do a degree indicates they understand the importance of education. I would much rather have someone with these qualifications policing the academic standards of our biology articles, than a random person off the street whose education comes from the media. The same goes for people with a biology degree policing our accountancy standards.
People with university degrees are not unusual, or hard to come by, especially amongst the kind of people this encyclopedia is targetted at. Carl Kenner 09:14, 11 May 2008 (CDT)
Speaking from personal experience, I really haven't seen that people who emerge with a college degree are in any way more intelligent than those who do not. Maybe in America, where class differences are starker and more severe this may be the case, but in my experience this is not so. And another thing, "Someone who's education comes from the media" is frankly, bull. Thats an assumtion all of its own, a crass, class based assumption with little basis in reality. My argument is that standards shouldn't be downgraded whatsoever. What I'm saying is that the requirements deemed necessary here for being in effect a policeman are over-stated. I don't need a degree to see if someone is using the 'F' word too frequently or is being uncivil to other users. And sometimes it simply doesn't come down to having a choice when it comes to education. Some people don't have that choice. Denis Cavanagh 18:04, 11 May 2008 (CDT)

I have mixed opinions about this. I see the point that we want high standards, but I also agree that that the degree requirement will both keep out some worthy candidates, and is also not a guarantee of suitability (although of course it's only a necessary condition, not a sufficient one, so I guess that's irrelevant). Is there some other advantage to the degree requirement that I'm missing? (I see the discussion about better insight into scholarship issues, and there's probably something to that, although that could be met with an 'or equivalent experience' clause.) On the gripping hand, I'm a 'bottom line' kind of person, and if we have enough Constables, the fact that we are keeping out some deserving ones is probably not that big a deal. I have to weigh that against the credibility, etc that having a degree requirement for Constables gives us, and I think the 'high standards' is probably more important.

I'm actually more concerned that we have a lot of fairly inactive Constables, because I think Constables are most valuable when they step in early, i.e. before they are called on; I think they need to be 'on patrol' for problems. (This is similar to the concept that a 'cop on the beat' is more valuable than only having personnel who respond to direct calls for their assistance.) But maybe that will be impossible as the project gets large, and we'll have to rely on the 'on call' mode? J. Noel Chiappa 10:11, 13 May 2008 (CDT)


I would highly disagree with the statement whether it makes a difference to an editor if the constable in question has a degree or not. A poxy - and yes, I do use that term to describe a degree which for most people who do it, isn't all that difficult - degree really isn't the be all and end all in a persons personal education. My father doesn't have any college qualification whatsoever - he rose to become a police seargeant and chairman of a local government board. An uncle of mine who spent three years in university is now a drunk. Its hard to see why the little piece of paper called a degree should change anything there, and frankly, its elitist to say it does. Denis Cavanagh 05:04, 8 May 2008 (CDT)

I see the logic in this proposal, I really do. I think that part of the rationale for Citizendium's existence is so that people outside of the educational mainstream can nevertheless have access to good scholarship. At the same time, though, I find Larry's point about editors quite cogent. The goal of Citizendium is to provide a free, reliable encyclopedia, and subject area editors are critical to achieving this in a way that non-degree holding contributors are not. Much as I agree with you that insisting on the educational requirement is elitist, keeping our experts is more important. Before we move ahead on any such proposal, I would be interested in hearing how our current experts feel about the proposal. It's entirely possible, of course, that they would have no objection to scrapping the educational requirement! Brian P. Long 18:17, 8 May 2008 (CDT)
It's not so much respect, as familiarity with the methods, standards and mores of scholarship, I think. Although of course one doesn't have to have a degree to understand those thing - and having an undergraduate degree often doesn't necessarily give one much insight into that either, depending on the field and the institution. J. Noel Chiappa 10:11, 13 May 2008 (CDT)

I see no reason why a fairly educated and mature, non-degreed person could not serve well as a constable. The top requirement should probably be 1 year or more of service to CZ, as this would indicate an overall understanding of how things should be run. A past record of civility and congeniality should also be required. The degree in no way creates a good constable, because they will be asked to cover topics in which they have absolutely no knowledge. We must keep in mind that some very bright mature people simply did not have access to higher education. Although I have a degree, I can accept that rulings of constables when I break the rules. David E. Volk 10:05, 13 May 2008 (CDT)

It seems a bit ironic that it is recognized that in some fields, there may not be a substantial academic discipline that trains experts, and that experts can demonstrate an academic equivalent in real-world experience: peer-reviewed publications, active participation in industry or research forums, and verifiable major project experience. As a disclaimer, I am an undergraduate dropout, who also did graduate work as a special student. Some of the ironies to consider is that I've published four textbooks, but was rejected for direct graduate admission by a school that uses several of my works as curriculum context. Industry seems to be able to tell the difference; when I was in Nortel's corporate research lab, my job description called for a "PhD or equivalent experience". Of a half-dozen close peers, only one actually had a doctorate.
So, there is precedent for not overemphasizing academic credentials where they would seem most relevant, in subject matter. For constables, I'd tend to think that direct evidence (here or at WP) of effective collaboration, dispute resolution, and diplomacy is more relevant to the role of a constable. If a potential constable had demonstrable experience in negotiation and conflict resolution (e.g., a labor union official, a military or police leader), I'd think that more relevant -- after all, "constable" is a term for a police officer, not an academician, in many countries.
Howard C. Berkowitz 10:23, 13 May 2008 (CDT)
I agree with David; I think that a demonstrated commitment to the project and to its ethos of collegiate collaboration, as evidenced in a year or so of participation, is what is needed. Qualifications were needed as a requirement when the project was new and had no history; now we have a history and we can use it to do better.Gareth Leng 11:47, 13 May 2008 (CDT)
I'm not sure I can agree with David's suggestion, but it certainly would be preferable to simply scrapping the education requirement. David says, "There is precedent for not overemphasizing academic credentials where they would seem most relevant." I agree, of course. What we seem to disagree about is whether education (hence the "or equivalent")--not necessarily academic credentials--is relevant to constable work. I think it is. Please do not think of constable work too closely on analogy with "police work." If you examine CZ:Constabulary and review the actual work that our constables are empowered to do, you'll see that some of it is basically editorial (such as deciding whether we need an editor to decide whether a content page should be deleted). Even the purely "behavioral" work, such as deciding whether it is appropriate to moderate a comment with {{nocomplaints}}, often involves deftly thinking through a host of complicated text-based problems. I think that education improves a person's judgment about such matters, especially since this is an intellectual community and project. If we can field enough people to handle such problems, I would prefer that they be college-educated. (If there were enough college-educated people who were willing to do police work for police pay, would you prefer that society make college education or equivalent a requirement for police officers? I would: it would probably improve police work, because education improves judgment.)
Also bear in mind that we might not be disagreeing very much, here, if we get clear on what "or equivalent" might mean.
It seems to me the burden is being unduly placed on those who are defending the current policy. I would like to see some argument that education beyond the postsecondary (high school) level does not actually enhance the ability to do Constabulary work. If the proposed change is merely motivated by egalitarianism, not by carefully-thought-out considerations of the requirements of different positions, I'm not impressed.
And then there is, again, the whole question about whether editors, especially as we grow in size and do not know each other, will really be able to take people without college degrees seriously when it comes to making decisions about serious personal disputes in our expert-guided project. --Larry Sanger 13:07, 13 May 2008 (CDT)

That is a fair point Larry, and to be honest, there is no way to gauge whether education enables good judgement. I would say good judgement comes from life experience and maturity. Unfortunately this seems to be a simple clash of opinions, and am willing to accept that. There is no scientific basis on which to generalise and say 'those with higher education have good judgement', it is merely an opinion. Denis Cavanagh 08:43, 14 May 2008 (CDT)

Constables also need a good eye for detail. Even educated folks, like Larry Sanger, who luckily is not running for political office at the moment and won't therefore be skewered on CNN or FOX, can attribute the words of Howard C. Berkowitz as being those of David Volk. This is how those diplomatic controversies start. (I am kidding around here Larry) David E. Volk 09:06, 14 May 2008 (CDT)

If our constabulary consists of people without degrees, it'd become same as Wikipedia's adminship & I'd hate for that to happen. Education does make huge difference in one's ability to make rational judgment. (Chunbum Park 09:05, 8 June 2008 (CDT))

Tweak the existing wording?

I note that the current Constabulary requirements say:

It is possible that we decide to consider certain life experiences as equivalent to a college education

So I guess it was considered that 'or equivalent' might someday be added to the policy? Would it be inappropriate to move this wording from 'maybe' to 'is'? J. Noel Chiappa 10:11, 13 May 2008 (CDT)


A great aspect idea of requiring a bachelor degree is that it is so simple - you don't have to make the sorts of nuanced calls about people, something a wiki is not well suited to do anyway. Stephen Ewen 21:18, 14 May 2008 (CDT)

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