We prize qualifications. It’s why we emphasize formal education. It’s why we like being able to check off community service activities as distinct parts of our lives. And it’s why we’re compelled to join (if not really use) things like LinkedIn that allow of to categorize, classify, and taxonomize our professional, academic, and volunteer selves.

In the best case, these qualifications speak to real relationships formed over the course of our activities. It’s presumed that deep involvement across a spectrum of activity means perhaps dozens of meaningful, reliable relationships were formed. Lunches had. Ideas shared. Musings sorted. Depths engaged.

The extent to which we talk about the academic system failing young people is, I think, the extent to which we’ve emphasized qualifications explicitly, assuming relationships would form implicitly.

That implicit assumption has been fatal (or at least seriously misleading) to a generation expecting that success follows covering the bases of social activity.