Just like getting a PhD?

A question to the Kingdom A&S Minister, Master Philip White:

“They say that getting a Laurel is equal to getting a Ph.D. but is that really true?”

A reply from the Minister:

I’ve heard that comparison, too. Probably most of us have.

If I think about it, the description happens more when people are trying to describe the award/recognition structure of the SCA to brand new members. And, someone who is not a member of the Order of the Laurel usually gives that comparison.

The association is well intentioned. And, on the surface, it seems like an easy way to help people get an idea of what happens within our structure of recognition.

So, let me be clear here. These things are not equivalent.

Being made a member of the Order of the Laurel is not the same as earning a Ph.D..

While requirements for being awarded an earned doctorate degree vary by institution, they will all involve combinations of intense levels of academic study, coursework, examinations, and original research of a quality ready for scholarly publication all of which is reviewed and approved by the institution.

It is important to me that we respect these educational institutions that award Ph.D.s along with the work that these people do when earning their degrees. I do not want to under represent these accomplishments.

It is a different process and a different level of expectation. They are not the same thing.

As I said, the association is well intentioned. I understand why it is made. The way people become members of the Order of the Laurel can be complicated. This feels like an easy way to help people understand.

Being recognized as a member of the Order of the Laurel is a different process. Candidates are focused on scholarship, research, creation, and teaching with an expectation of mastery within the arts and sciences. The Crown will take feedback from the existing members of the Order on potential candidates. The Crown then makes their decision on what new people will become Laurels.

To become a Laurel you are not expected to do Ph.D. level work. You are not required to publish a dissertation or produce an equivalent level of work.

Candidates are expected to produce a high level of work. That’s true. And we will call that “mastery” within the SCA.

Research and documentation can and will be an important part of that process. To aspiring artisans, and their friends, it may feel like they are expected to write a dissertation. That is not what is being requested.

Please don’t let it sound like I am taking anything away from the artisans of the Society or the existing members of the Laurel. They are doing great work. They are doing great research. And they are publishing important scholarship.

There are people now who will earn a Ph.D. in the SCA but be recognized as a Laurel. There are people who will become Laurels that will never do the work related to earning a Ph.D.. There are also many people who will achieve one first and then become the other. All of those are valid options.

What I do not want happening is people getting discouraged from working towards a personal goal of being recognized as a Laurel because they hear that they have to do the work equal to a doctorate degree. That’s not the case.

So, instead, let me suggest when you are talking to new people, be comfortable saying, “The Order of the Laurel is the highest level of recognition we have for people interested in the arts and sciences.”

That’s a fair an accurate statement. And it easily complements the people who are members of the Order. And it happily gives people something good and dignified to work towards.

Remember… Have fun! Learn! Teach!

Your Servant to Command,
~p.w.