Of course, the publishing industry isn't the only field guarded by the Knights who say "Ni!" The craft and trade guilds of the Middle Ages were probably the first formal gatekeepers of knowledge, at least in Western civilization. Secret societies and fraternities of many sorts derived from the guilds of old, which eventually became the present day trade unions. The guild system did promote very high standards of craftsmanship, and what later became known as professionalism, but like any great concept, it eventually overlived its usefulness. Take the medical profession, for instance. It's probably a good thing that some form of license is required in order to practice medicine. We don't hear much about "amateur medicine" these days. We no longer go to the town barber for our monthly bloodletting session. And as a result, until very recently, the medical Knights who say Ni! produced the finest medical system in the world. But there's also a terrible cost. All you need to do is look at any television pharmaceutical ad....generally a two minute blurb, where the first minute and a half is dedicated to telling you all the ways the product can kill you before they finally get around to telling you what it's good for. I imagine that before the end of the decade they will have developed pharmaceuticals which have NOTHING BUT side effects, with no benefits whatsoever. Needless to say, this will have no detrimental effect on the profitablility of these products whatsoever.
The fact is that a lot of good medicine happens outside of the purview of the medical establishment. And it's really hard to argue any more that "alternative" medicines are any riskier than what we see advertised every night on TV by the establishment Knights who say Ni!
And then there's the educational Knigths who say Ni! Now, I'm a bit of an exception in this regard...I was probably the only person in the history of the entire UCLA physics department who ever held a development engineering position without the benefit of a PhD. In fact, I have precisely one half of an electrical engineering bachelors degree. However, I had some VERY specialized skills which the Plasma Lab needed, so I was able to entirely bypass the Knight's who say Ni. To draw from the medical analogy...if you're bleeding to death in the gutter, you don't ask to see the EMT's diploma.
Even Silicon Valley recognizes this. A major industrial survey showed that most high tech entrepreneurs do better in the long run by bypassing college altogether and using that time to build momentum in the industry....they will be four years ahead of the educational curve anyway. Histiorically, it can be shown that industry creates professors...not the other way around. Of course, not every high school kid is a nascient Steve Jobs, but ENOUGH of them are to justify taking a hard look at the necessity of a college education by default for those who really know what they want to do. College isn't really that great for kids who have now clue what they want to do, either. College actually works best for folks like ME, who had a PRETTY good idea what they wanted to do, but needed some guidance. But after a couple of years of college I figured out what I really wanted to do, too, after which point it didn't do me much good either...and I've done very well I've had some of the most fun jobs on the planet....and that is even outside of writing!
Do we want to eliminate the Knights who say Ni, altogether? Certainly not. The knights of the old guard are certainly a stabilizing influence, and for MOST people, collecting shrubberies is a workable goal. It just doesn't lead to a lot of new innovations. (I guess all innovations are new, by definition)
However, I think it's one of our responsibilities as writers to show people how to bypass the Knights who say Ni at every possible opportunity.
Causes Eric Nichols Supports
Free Burma Rangers, Partners Ministries (Thailand), Literacy council of Alaska, Access Alaska.