Saturday, July 12, 2014

My Visit to a Diploma Mill

Several years ago, when I was around nineteen, I thought to visit an old pastor my family had known for many years. He was respected of his peers and was a fine churchman and leader of several flocks in his nearly fifty years of ministry. I had in mind to eventually study for theology and ministry and surely this aged pastor, in his mid-sixties could steer me in the right direction.

Oh, sure, he said, there is a great university you need to look into. They have a campus here in Tyler, "Louisiana Baptist University" Go and see one of my good friends, Dr. Mike Daniels, pastor of Landmark  Baptist Church.

I drove several miles out to the southeast of town to Landmark Baptist. I went in, shook hands and  introduced myself to Pastor Mike. He took me to a long hallway, on which wall he had prominently displayed four of his degrees. "This is my Bachelors." A little further and "These are my two masters." And "This is my doctorate." I'm not aware that any of them were from accredited schools. One is impressed that he is not simply proud of his accomplishments, he has impressed himself. Every second of it was enamour and pride with his credentials and it was obnoxious.

I highly value education. I respect those who have made notable accomplishments in higher education. But I don't recall anyone who so obnoxiously advertised their own credentials as this man. I've never been put off if someone spoke to me of their achievements. But this man put me off.

We went on to talk about the demands of Louisiana Baptist University, which is an unaccredited school that I think has more prestige than a diploma mill but still is something I would not advise you to touch with a ten foot stick.

I left, unconvinced. I probably thought to myself there really are no shortcuts in life. Everything has to be done right, if you want it done well. But, this Dr. Mike was fascinating, but only mildly. I would have to look into his background and see what I could dig up. And boy, did I strike it big.

When I looked for the church's official website, I saw something very curious. In connection with the  ministry school he hosts on the church site, he's involved in training up young ministers to counsel with struggling folks. And what better man to counsel and to raise up young ministers than the Executive Director of the National Association of Family and Marriage Counselors.[1]

Quite an austere name. How privileged we are to have such a noted psychologist among us.

But the more I investigated, I found that there really was no such National Association of Family and Marriage Counselors to speak of. Rather, from what I could determine, it was among a variety of other  corporations using similarly prestigious-sounding titles, of which I only determined that he was the only member.

And yet when I carefully read the language, it's said so matter-of-factly as if he were voted in as president by some distinguished council of public servants. So far as I could determine, he wasn't "elected" president by anyone other than himself, when he registered his corporation with the state comptroller.

Was he really certified as a professional counselor?

"Dr. Daniels holds professional certifications with the National Association of Family and Marriage  Counselors and the National Association of Professional Counselors."

So we can see clearly he has a secondary certification from his own organization which he founded, the  NAMF. But this NAPC? Who might that be? It's quite an austere sounding name. Certainly it must be a  prestigious accrediting council of authorities in the area of psychology and psychotherapy.

But alas, though I looked into this professional academy, I found scant results (less than ten), and I found no such recognition among professional societies such as the National Board of Certified Counselors and Affiliates, or the American Counseling Association. Nevertheless, I am convinced that such an entity does in fact exist and that no professional demands are put upon any of its members, in my estimation. Again, as is so often the case in this investigation, it seems that this is merely another rubber-stamp operation, one that accredits anyone willing to pay a fee.

I return to the church website, for I have only investigated a handful of links in the directory.

A fine theologian such as Pastor Mike probably is quite a purist doctrinally, I had in mind to study up on the church's positions. Under the selection bar to the left, there is indeed an "Articles of Faith" section under the Resources menu.

I find today that there is nothing on the page! And neither was there anything on the page when I looked there the better part of ten years ago! The more I read the website, the more it seems like a subtle  advertisement. It's merely another shell in a long list of shells.

"Christian Counselors can receive a certificate by joining the National Association of Family and Marriage Counselors and subscribing to NAFMC'S code of counseling and conduct and submitting three references and the proper fee's."[2]

How much? For a basic license, a counseling certificate is "$125.00 with a $25.00 annual renewal."

But if you want the real deal: "Professional Counseling Certificate is $175.00 with a $25. 00 annual renewal."

Because if you want to be a professional, it has nothing to do with how many advanced graduate courses you take in your field of study, it merely costs an extra fifty dollars. [3]

Elsewhere, we find a range of information on tuition at the bible college.

So there are certainly an abundance of links and matter relating to fees, accreditation, and advertising for the little business the "Chancelor" [sic] of the Texas Baptist Theological Seminary has been profiting from in many years. On the contrary, there is scant evidence that a church exists at all. All that I've found confirms that there is certainly a shady operation being run that pretends to endorse "professional counselors" with no accredited training, for a small fee.

This is certainly not the first time I've seen a person of such notable achievement. I knew a young man in his early 30s who had been specially recognized by the city for his quote, Work with the food and homeless shelter and direct assistance to the needy. I spent months interviewing this man and his family on a personal level. I found no evidence of a homeless shelter. I found small evidence that he provided meals on an irregular basis to some of the less fortunate he was directly affiliated with. I saw him take plenty of donations for his personal gratification but I saw no such good works, to deserve a commendation from the mayor himself.

In the world of ministry, diploma mills, and fundamentalist Christianity, very few of the pastors have real credentials, and the only value of the credentials they have are not in its intrinsic worth but that others pretend with the minister that they have worth. Money is much the same way. At one point, it had a designated value with respect to either gold or silver. Now, it's value is by fiat, according to common convention, e.g. that we agree it has value and businesses are willing to accept it as a valid object for making transactions. If businesses on the border with Mexico agree that pesos are a legitimate value for exchange, then they will exchange pesos. If fundamentalists agree that paper credentials that in fact are worth less than the paper they are printed on are worth something, then it is by that convention that they are worth something.

If it is agreed that one can pretend to operate homeless shelters and orphanages, although no such facilities exist or have ever existed, then it makes sense how a city government, or worse, the White House (and yes, the individual I was speaking of received recognition from the White House - for nothing), can mail out such letters to single out and distinguish outstanding citizens in the community.

What happens, in my experience, is these letters become just another credential. When no food shelters are found, the formal letter of commendation is drawn out. "See, I did used to operate a food shelter, the mayor even commended me for it!"

Good old Mike.

Professor. Dean of Psychology. Chancelor [sic]. A bachelor, two masters, a Doctorate of Theology, a Ph.D., an honorary doctorate, Executive Director of the National Association of Family and Marriage Counselors.

"One is impressed that he is not simply proud of his accomplishments, he has impressed himself. Every  second of it was enamor and pride with his credentials and it was obnoxious."

And it finally all made sense.

Again, the counseling certificates.

"Each certificate comes with your name and qualifications with a beautiful gold seal signed by our director and executive secretary. These certificates are made for framing and to be placed where your counselee's are able to view." [sic] [bold mine]

[3]. ibid.

Of course, I look forward to hearing from some sycophants that I'm being mean and callous. So for you, I leave you this:

DISCLAIMER: If you pretend to be a doctor and to have accomplishments on your resume that you invented from whole cloth and thin air, then I reserve the right to speak badly about you in public and expose you as a fake.

1 comment:

  1. Anyone who profits monetarily from preaching the Word of GOD is not for real. There is no documentation in the Bible where Jesus took up a collection. Jesus taught against it in Luke 9:1-6.