Fact Check

Professor Required to Learn From Own Textbook

Respected instructor is forced to obtain advanced degree in subject he wrote textbook for.

Published Aug. 28, 2000


Claim:   Respected instructor is forced by university regulations to obtain an advanced degree in the subject he already teaches; the first class he enrolls in uses a textbook he wrote.


Example:   [Collected on the Internet, 1993]

John Kallam graduated with a BA in criminology and entered the US Army. He served for 20 years beginning in the late 1930s. He was an investigator during the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals, and stayed in Germany for many years organizing civilian police forces in the post-war era. He also wrote numerous books on criminal justice. He retired from military service in the late 1950s at the rank of full colonel.


to Fresno, California, he began teaching criminology at what was then Fresno State College (later to become the California State University, Fresno). His work was well respected, but after about ten years of service, he was called to see the president of the college. He was informed that he could no longer teach with just a bachelor's degree. Times were changing, he was told, and the school demanded that faculty members hold a graduate degree. Merely having 20 years of distinguished experience was no longer considered sufficient qualification to teach. All new faculty were being required to hold a doctorate, it was explained, and the school was actually doing him a favor by letting him keep his job by getting 'only' a master's degree. So John enrolled in a summer program at an out of state college. Three months of intensive seminars and then nine months of home study would get him his MA.

On the first day of class, the instructor was taking roll. He stopped when he read John's name.

"Are you related to the John Kallam who wrote the textbook we'll be using?" he asked.

"I am the John Kallam who wrote the textbook you're using," came the dry response.


Origins:   Attempts to verify the literal truth of this


anecdote have been unsatisfying, primarily because no one seems able to produce any books on criminology by (or any other verifying information about) a "John Kallam." Nonetheless, many of us who have spent time dealing with the world of academia can call similar real-life incidents to mind, cases where a well-respected instructor recognized as an expert in his field was forced by regulations to jump through academic hoops and obtain additional certification or an advanced degree to demonstrate that he had an adequate command of the subject he had already been teaching (and writing about) for many years.

Last updated:   9 June 2011

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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