Keep Calm and Be Kind

I was thinking about the phrase “KEEP CALM and BE KIND” permeating the campus and I am totally down with this philosophy. It has been my philosophy for a long time; I am my mother’s daughter. I was also thinking about a recent interchange with an employee pursuing a degree. This woman works full-time at GCC while raising two young daughters and taking evening classes. When I asked if she is completing a bachelor’s degree, she responded with a hangdog “no, it’s just an associate’s degree”. This saddens me beyond belief.  I used to be her, ashamed of getting JUST an associate’s degree. I am fortunate to have broken free of this attitude.

You see, I have an associate’s degree in medical laboratory science from Madison Area Technical College. The most important and fulfilling work I have ever done was working as a MLT in hospitals in the Midwest. I had direct impact on people’s health; I literally helped save lives. I did this with an AAS and earned far less than my colleagues with bachelor’s degrees. I always felt like a second-class citizen, ashamed of JUST having an associate’s degree, when I should have been proud of my accomplishment. It is no easy feat obtaining this degree.

I find a lot of stigma attached to degrees. It’s not that you are getting an associates, bachelor’s, or master’s degree. It is a question of the type of degree and the school you attend. There is a pecking order and boy, you better be going to the best school and getting the right degree or well, you are down there and I am up here, above you. I’m afraid I see this attitude quite often from where I sit. The fact is a lot of the brightest people I know do not have a degree.

I am not immune to this prejudice, no one is, but the fact that someone is striving to obtain more knowledge should be the most important thing we see. I personally don’t find value in racking up letters and acronyms after my name. I do find value in increasing my knowledge and working my brain, hence my going for a master’s degree. There will always be someone with higher degrees from places of greater esteem. I cannot hope to compete with them, nor should I. I can be kinder to everyone I meet, staff and students, and overlook the award (or lack) of a piece of paper attached to them. I can and will continue to admire the work they do to help others achieve their goals and dreams. I can give a huge high five to those who overcome a lot of obstacles to get an associate degree or higher.

Yes, we should keep calm and be kind, and work to be the very best person we can be.


One thought on “Keep Calm and Be Kind”

  1. Great post. This phenomenon happens at all levels. I know people who have PhDs who turn their noses up at our EdDs. They’re both doctoral degrees, but to some there is a difference, and to them one is far superior to the other. But fortunately in our field (education) it doesn’t matter which letters you have after your name, they both pay the same. And as someone who started pursuing just an AA degree, I know as well as many of us do that it’s a starting point and many go on to pursue additional higher degrees after they prove to themselves that they can do it. There’s no shame in that.


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