You are Authorized to Break Rules

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Employers increasingly expect that we show our professional credentials to sweep, mop, sew, burp babies, pump gas, trim hair, plant trees, make balloon animals, give advice or back rubs, and everything else. Back in 1950 just 5% of jobs required specific credentials. Today the estimate is 25%. And by 2020, two-thirds of all jobs nationally will require a postsecondary degree.

Credentialing is huge business.There are hundreds of professional credentialing agencies, charging big money to certify skills. Credentialers claim that they're protecting us from fraud. Many do, but often they are protecting industries from competition and innovation. The old guard guards the old ways.

Whenever authority becomes too rigid and centralized, we need to assert our own common sense again. Ask yourself, are institutions making rules to make our lives easier, or are they getting rich making our lives harder? Will they lead solutions to global warming, poverty, hunger and drought?

When you believe that standards can be changed through official channels, try that. But official channels frequently channel us to dead ends. Whenever you believe that official rules need a kick in the pants, try that. Don't be intimidated by experts-- professors, journalists, and bureaucrats. They often serve whoever pays them. And they often disagree with one another.

Most official authority is merely official-looking pieces of paper. Therefore when I see progress blocked by authorities I authorize myself to credential credentialers. I have a certificate for doing so from the Agency for Credentialing Agencies, which I credentialed. Is this arrogant? Sure. That's where all authority begins-- arrogance on paper.

So when a credentialing agency asks to see your credentials, demand to see their credential from ACA (that's me).

During the past 40 years I've issued many credentials, to empower fresh thinking and new directions. You can too. For example, when three medical students were surprised to need a license to clown for children in a hospital, I made them each a colorful certificate from the "Institute of Clownology." These worked fine.

Another friend is an excellent networker. She connects people she thinks should meet. So I made her a Networker credential, which got her hired to teach Networking at the local college. When another friend doubted his own sanity, I made him a Certificate of Sanity, which he posted on his refrigerator. When another friend needed a tie to enter a fancy restaurant, I quickly made a cardboard clip-on tie.

More ambitiously, I designed paper money for my community. Millions of dollars of this cash were spent by thousands of residents and 500 businesses. Interest-free loans were made, plus grants to over 100 organizations. Later on, since many of us had no health insurance, I started a local health co-op. Within three years, 800 members were covered for 12 categories of common emergency, anywhere in the world, for $100 per YEAR.

When City Hall ignored the needs of bicyclists I started the Bicycle Planning Commission, successfully pushing the government to provide us an office and a budget. As cops stalked the town writing tickets for violations, I started the Praise Police, who wrote citations when they saw good stuff.

My first rule for making new rules is to serve humanity, the environment, and justice. Therefore I wouldn't issue credentials for structural engineering, since bridges and tall buildings need to be safe. Keep in mind, though, that for thousands of years native architects around the world have produced beautiful, durable energy-efficient dwellings of local materials.

Nor would I issue a certificate for surgery, since slicing people open is serious. Even so, infant heart surgery was invented by a janitor who read medical textbooks.

Just as impressively, the people who invented the wheel, the electric lightbulb, the airplane, and the home computer did not have college degrees. All these folks, and all of us, were born instead with a degree of imagination. Aristotle had no college degree when he started the first university.

Likewise the pioneers who demanded an end to slavery, votes for women, the eight-hour workday, and civil rights were all rule breakers. Today, unless we rebel, the next generations will inherit dead oceans, boiling summers, empty wells, extinctions, famines, wars for water and oil.

Many of us follow rules in order to get paid and to stay out of jail. But when bad rules cage our souls, we are forced to break out. Challenging outmoded standards to make new rules is an old tradition, essential for progress. Thomas Jefferson wrote, "What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance?"

The extraordinary pace of change requires fresh standards and authority. And this is why we should credential ourselves to credential the credentiallers so they serve us, rather than control us. Revolutions don't wait for permission. That's why they're called revolutions.

Though lawbreaking is a last resort, most of the following national, state, or local laws were changed by being broken:

* Owning slaves and whipping them.

* Hiring little boys in coal mines and working them 12 hours/day.

* Hiring little girls in textile mills and working them 12 hours/day.

* Working adult laborers 14 hours/day, 7 days/week.

* Prohibiting Jews, Irish, Chinese, Italians, or Blacks from living in white neighborhoods.

* Prohibiting blacks from marrying, swimming, drinking, eating, or learning with whites.

* Prohibiting teaching African-Americans to read.

* Permitting public hangings.

* Permitting dangerous working conditions.

* Permitting massacres of Native Americans.

* Permitting imprisonment for debt.

* Prohibiting non-property-owners from voting.

* Prohibiting women from voting.

* Prohibiting women from wearing bathing suits that showed ankles or knees.

* Prohibiting teaching about birth control.

* Prohibiting teaching about Evolution.

* Prohibiting neighborhood radio stations.

* Prohibiting criticism of the President.

* Prohibiting criticism of foreign policy.

* Prohibiting shopping on Sundays.

* Prohibiting beer or liquor sales.

* Prohibiting dancing.

* Prohibiting kissing.

Glover is author of "How to Take Power" and other books. He is founder of 18 organizations and campaigns. He taught urban studies at Temple University.

Paul Glover