Tag Archives: legitimacy

There’s a Sucker Born Every Minute

1 Jan

Yesterday, I pontificated on the legitimacy of some book awards and college accreditation–areas in which I have an abiding interest. However, this idea can be spread to any subject. But what if it’s something I only mildly care about?

I was convinced many years ago to buy fair trade coffee. I figured the exchange was worthwhile–if producers pay coffee farmers double the price per bushel (say $0.50 to $1 for a giant bag), it doesn’t make a great difference to the US customer, but it makes a huge difference in Costa Rica. They can afford to send their kids to school, they can build their houses up, and greatly improve their life. I lived on a mountain in India for three years making $300/month, and for the area, I lived as an upper middle class professional. So I’ve seen the difference a little extra change can mean in the developing world.

But as I said, I’m only mildly care about fair trade coffee. I watched a three-hour documentary on it. As you can see here, these are four different legitimate fair trade logos that producers can slap on their bags. I’ve seen a lot more. How much effort am I going to make as a coffee consumer to make sure that their fair trade certification is legitimate? Thirty seconds of a Google search? Two minutes? Most of the time, I’m simply going to take it as legitimate and feel virtuous about buying expensive coffee, and not double check the label.

Here in Arizona, building and service contractors have to register with the Arizona Registrar of Contractors and get a license number that they have to put on their advertising and trucks. This shows that they are accountable to the state if they screw up the job on your house. You can actually go to the AROC website and look them up by license number. However, is there any reason that I, as a disreputable contractor, couldn’t just do a search, find a contractor that sounds like me, and just paste their number on my truck? Or just put any number on there and bet that most customers won’t bother checking?

To give another example, I’ve sent both of my kids (and now just my daughter) to Tempe Montessori School. We love the education and their philosophy and it works really well with both of their ADHD types. However, do I really know the difference between AMI (Association Montessori Internationale) and the AMS (American Montessori Society) certification? I had to ask my wife (because she cares greatly about most things more than I) and she preferred AMI, because AMS makes “too many concessions” to American public school practice. So my wife did the research and I took her word on it. Many parents will take word of mouth over certification any day. It’s more consistent.

When we first came to Arizona, we sent our kids to Sholom Montessori, because we really loved the idea of a Jewish Montessori school–we had sent Asher to one when he was four years old and he did great. Turned out the school was a scam by the founders, and they used the money from that (and a synagogue they ran) to pay their bills and fix up their house. The head of the school was also the elementary school teacher, but after six months, she decided to stop teaching, leaving the class in the hands of her 12-year-old daughter. She got work visas for young women from Israel so she could pay them #*$& and give them the awful choice of “work for me or go home to Israel.” Six months after we pulled out of that school, and a message to the AZ Department of Education and the Jewish Tuition Organization, they were finally shut down.

I guess the point of all of this is caveat emptor–let the buyer beware. Because even with certification, anyone can put a sticker on their website and say they’re certified (as was the case with Sholom Montessori; the agency had never heard of them!) So I’m less impressed with accreditation that some people–but I could be wrong. Have you had more positive experiences with certification and those kinds of agencies? Or are you as cynical as I am? Let me know in the comments below!

And the 2020 Bantha Award goes to…

31 Dec

There are so many book awards, would anyone notice if I just made one up? When I see an award on someone’s book that I don’t recognize, I always check to see if it’s legitimate. How true is that for the rest of life? And how much do I want to fact check everything?

For example, there’s a book by an acquaintance of mine, and as a result, I really want to like it. It has a seal that says, “Readers’ Favorite, Five Stars.” I’ve tried reading it twice–the story’s okay, but the formatting is so awful that I don’t understand who is talking and when–I never got past page 20. You spent so much money on a custom cover, sprung for a sticker because this is self-published, and someone to sell your books at a con, and you couldn’t spring for an editor?

It turns out that Readers’ Favorite is a website that does free book reviews, has contests, and offers proofreading services to authors and book access to readers. However, since you can just buy a roll of stickers to put on your books, as long as your free review got five stars, it makes me wonder how authentic this is. Plus in 2020, they proudly proclaim that they are “featuring 800+ winners and finalists in 150+ categories,” makes me think I could sweep the alternate history urban fiction category this year. 🙂 Okay, this is obviously a money-making ploy, and it’s a good one, but how many people would do the research to catch it?

About 30 years ago, the accreditation movement started getting steam–it might have started earlier, but as a new teacher, this was the first I had heard of it. ISO 2000 certification was the rage in the factories I worked with, but in the early internet, no one outside manufacturing executives had any clue what ISO was or why they should care. It’s actually rather impressive when you research it, but it only really impresses other manufacturers, not your customers.

Private schools and public colleges suddenly all got accredited by these mega-agencies that no one had ever heard of. Unless you’re working in a private school, have you ever heard of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges? No? Well, it’s very important if you want to convince American colleges to accept your high school graduates if you’re teaching them in Malaysia. In fact, this accreditation got so bad that now there’s an accreditation association for accreditation associations!

Damn–I wish I got in on this scam. Convince people that you’ll make them authentic and pocket their money; you’re selling air! It’s gotten so crazy that there are fake accreditation agencies for fake colleges! You know, the diploma mills for schools that don’t actually exist? On a more insidious path, there are fake colleges that have an office that purely exist to allow foreigners to come in student visas, and rake in Department of Education funding.

This post is getting way too long–so I better continue it tomorrow. However, I am curious, what are areas that you’re familiar with that you know people are trying to scam with fake awards/certifications/accreditations? Let me know in the comments below!

What is Legitimacy?

12 Dec

Bastards, Blood relations, Half-Brothers, Step-brothers, In-Laws. We have lots of terms in the English language for various levels of legitimate relations with people. Yet I wonder how many of those terms are really useful anymore?

I’m working with a professor talking about divorce law, which as you can imagine, goes into great detail on such issues. However, my initial thought was… I get this from a legal perspective, but how much does such relations actually impact our lives?

I guess it depends how close you are to the people in question. I used to joke that I started off as an only child and ended up the middle of ten. How does that work? My parents only had me, then divorced. Then my mom remarried and I gained three stepbrothers and a stepsister. My dad remarried and had a half-brother and a half-sister. Then my mom died, my stepdad remarried, and I gained three half-stepbrothers.

Stop me if you’re getting confused–I sure was! Then my stepsister married my half-stepbrother, which sounds icky, except there’s no blood relation and their parents only married after they were 20. But that pales in comparison to the fact that my aunt is also my second cousin (my parents met at their wedding). 🙂

To add to confusion, there is also relations of mine who are not married to their partner, so they’re my… what? Not-stepbrother-in-law?! Rebecca’s boyfriend? I guess if I know them well, I just call him Steve, but the further away I am from that person, the more I have to define them in these obsolete terms.

The real point of “legitimate, step, in-law, whatever” is a legal definition. How close is the person to inheriting the wealth of another person? Back in medieval times, you might get Don John the Bastard, but as much as that term has a negative context, by calling them a bastard actually meant you legitimized them. This is my son! They get a portion of my wealth! However, that took something away from the regular kids, so they’ve always been demonized… unless they weren’t.

Take the Tudors–they were descended from the bastard child of the wife of Henry V. No one claimed they weren’t really royalty… well, maybe during Henry VII’s reign, but that’s why it was important for him to marry one of the more direct bloodlines so that his kids were legitimate… and why Henry VIII was so crazy about marrying all those women, because memories of the War of the Roses was VERY clear in the survivors, and he wanted to avoid wars of succession. It didn’t… quite work, but he did prevent more than just a couple coups… oh, and the Spanish Armada. 🙂

But before I go down that road, what do you think? Is legitimacy useful outside the legal world? Do you consider someone a “brother from another mother?” Let me know in the comments below!

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