February 04, 2004

No Pain, No Gain

To desire, or even to accept of praise, where no praise is due, can be the effect only of the most contemptible vanity.

-- Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759)


Do you want a prosperous future, increased earning power
more money and the respect of all?

Call this number: 1-646-XXX-XXXX (24 hours)*

There are no required tests, classes, books, or interviews!

Get a Bachelors, Masters, MBA, and Doctorate (PhD) diploma!

Receive the benefits and admiration that comes with a diploma!

No one is turned down!

Call Today 1-646-XXX-XXXX (7 days a week)

Confidentiality assured!

-- a piece of spam that I just discovered in my mailbox

I want it all, baby. Money, power, fame, fortune, the respect of all, and heaps of praise where praise is most decidedly not due. So sign me up! I'll take one of those B.Comm diplomas, perhaps followed by a Doctorate (PhD) diploma in Econ (though maybe I'd be better off with an MBA? if so, I'd like to order an Executive MBA: go big or go home, as I always say).

*The actual digits have been removed to protect the innocent and the not-so-innocent. The email address seems to come from Germany, but 646 is a newish NYC area code (I have it for my cell phone). Is it just me, or has the diploma mill entered an entirely new phase altogether?

Posted by Invisible Adjunct at February 4, 2004 08:00 PM

It seems like I always get that particular piece of spam after an email from my advisor asking how the dissertation is coming along.

Posted by: DJW at February 4, 2004 08:11 PM

Isn't there a movie coming out soon about high school students who steal the answer key to the SAT exam? If I recall the trailer I saw for this, they are lauded for their actions, all without a shred of irony. And, hey, why not? It's just a biased and faulty test, and if getting an edge on it gets one into a better, more prestigious school which will eventually lead to greater earniong potential, then I say, in the words of Howard Dean, Yaaaa ...

Posted by: Chris at February 4, 2004 09:03 PM

Whoa there...I've got a REAL PhD that I spent 5 years earning, and 8 years of post-doc experience on top of that. Where's my prosperity, increased earning power, money, respect, benefits, and admiration? Is a fake diploma better than the real thing?

Posted by: PZ Myers at February 4, 2004 10:18 PM

I remember I started getting that "get your college degree" spam in my last few months as an undergrad at Stanford, when I was having trouble petitioning for some classes to count as distribution requirements. I was beginning to get worried I might not actually graduate, and thought it was an interesting coincidence they started targeting me at that same time.

Posted by: Kenny Easwaran at February 5, 2004 03:00 AM

It's a sad commentary on higher education that most humanities BA degrees from public universities--and from most private ones--don't signify a whole lot more achievement than these "spam" degrees!

Posted by: Counterpoint at February 5, 2004 08:48 AM

My favorite part of these things (yes, I've clicked through a few of their web sites) is the testimonials of people who've bought degrees from them and suddenly enjoy better treatment from airline gate agents, maitre d's, etc. Do many PhDs make a habit of announcing their doctorness? I don't, but maybe I should.

Bob, Ph.D.

Posted by: Bob at February 5, 2004 09:24 AM

Bob, that's hilarious. "Want waiters to stop spitting in your soup? Wave *this* piece of paper at them!"

Posted by: DJW at February 5, 2004 12:56 PM

My M.Phil. always gets me into the best NYC restaurants, even at the hight of the dinner rush, but I gaze with ill-concealed envy at the PhD's monopolizing the best tables and chatting with passing movie stars. Why, oh why, didn't I stick with it and get the full reward?

Posted by: language hat at February 5, 2004 01:03 PM

Hat, it's because you insist in speaking to the maitre-d' in Mingrelian. That's the best way to tick one of those guys off. All your friends have tried to tell you.

Posted by: zizka / emerson at February 5, 2004 02:08 PM

Don't laugh, DJW. You wave your diploma and a couple Alexander Hamiltons, and you're on Easy Street.

Posted by: Bob at February 5, 2004 05:17 PM

All right, all right, next time I'll use Georgian. But it's so... common!

Posted by: language hat at February 5, 2004 07:02 PM

This blog entry and its comments jest, so I almost hate to draw a serious comparison: is it just me or is the "honorary doctorate" as big a slap in the face as are these other fake degrees?

Every now and then I'll hear a celebrity or politician talk about an honorary doctorate as if they earned it, and I want to ask whether they puked out of nervousness on the morning of their defense, or if they are trying to mend relationships that were strained during the dissertation-writing time, or if they just don't know how to pay off their student loans. Etc, etc.

In other words, I find all phoney degrees offensive to what mine represents (especially given that it doesn't represent any earning power).

Posted by: Butters at February 5, 2004 08:30 PM

Language Hat (or hat, if I may be so bold),

You have every reason to feel envious. My history PhD secures me one of the best tables at Le Cirque 2000, where I am seen on the scene with the latest and greatest in NYC celebrity. Perhaps you've seen me at Balthazar, exchanging macrobiotic diet tips with Gwyneth?

Posted by: Invisible Adjunct at February 5, 2004 09:48 PM

Oh, so it was you sitting behind that giant tower of stuff from the raw bar last week--and hardly touching it, of course! And you two must have ordered the last bottle of La Mouline, '96, right?

****perpetually snubbed at fancy places*******

Posted by: Curtiss Leung at February 5, 2004 11:30 PM

I never understood why anyone would pay for one of these things... they have to be really clueless. To get more "respect" just tell the credit card company, phone company etc. that your title is "dr".

I still feel embarassed when people do address me as "doctor" in person though a little miffed if they write "mr" on a letter :)

Dr Moom

Posted by: moom at February 6, 2004 09:39 AM

I almost threw my television out the window of my tiny, expensive grad-student apartment when Regis Philbin and Kathie Lee Gifford started comparing their honorary degrees and their experiences of being awarded them. I would have thrown it out, but it was expensive and my only source of comfort during my dissertation endgame. I bet Regis has eight TVs.

Posted by: Bob, Ph.D. at February 6, 2004 09:53 AM

Hmmmm...so far I'm not having much luck getting respect with my fancy "Dr." title. Do you think if I order one of those penis enlargers they keep trying to sell me, I'll start getting more respect?

Posted by: Matilde at February 6, 2004 11:39 AM

Sometimes Gwyneth comes slumming through Portland, but I can't afford the places she slums at.

Posted by: zizka / emerson at February 6, 2004 01:40 PM

What are the honorary degress in?
I mean it has to say a phd in "something" , and you cant just pick any "something". If say Speilberg gets one in fine arts or something like that its not so bad. If he gets one in archology (for indiana jones ??) its wont go down that well I guess.

Posted by: Passing_through at February 6, 2004 02:32 PM

Re post 16 -

You have it all wrong with Regis. During his time at my college, he did a tremendous job. I will never forget his lectures on Kant.
We were lucky to have him. Thankfully, Byron Allen has taken his slot.

Do you know Regis actually wrote all the questions on "Who wants to be a millionaire"? I'm tired of academics mocking those of us outside the ivory tower, especially pillars of the entertainment industry like myself, for somehow not putting our educations to use.

Doubting Regis is proof of how limited a graduate education can be. Next, you'll be telling me MacGyver really couldn't make a bomb out of a Q-Tip and some oranges.

Posted by: better left nameless at February 6, 2004 03:09 PM

Bob, PhD: Yes, I had an enlightening and (in the end) humbling correspondence with Regis; it started with a simple (as I thought) chat about Wilhelm von Humboldt's theories on language, but after Regis explained to me what Humboldt meant by "inner form" he went on to relate it to the remaining fragments of Humboldt's work on the Kawi language of Java (which he said fit in amazingly well with what has been learned of the language since), and I found myself with nothing to say worthy of his intellect, so I retired from the field. It turns out that he started in a PhD program but found himself quickly bored and decided to make his way in the larger world outside. The whole "Regis" persona is simply a piece of performance art he carries on amid his many other projects.

Posted by: language hat at February 6, 2004 10:13 PM



And thanks to BLN and LH for rescuing Regis for me. I am easily fooled, and clearly Regis is a supergenius. (I'm now wondering how many of my more frustrating students are also geniuses just being mischievous.)

[Ed. IA to correct alignment]

Posted by: Bob, Ph.D. at February 7, 2004 01:53 PM

I'm an ABD with one of these places.

I dunno, I just can't get it together and finish filling out the form on the web page.

Posted by: Jon H at February 7, 2004 11:59 PM