Education and Professionalism

In the latest issue of the ISAR Journal, Vol. 36, Number 2, I published an article entitled “A lot has happened while you have been asleep… Education and Professionalism in the Age of Pluto in Capricorn.”

I have to admit that I don’t like my conclusions in this article, but they have profound implications for the future of astrology as a whole.

Here’s an excerpt:


In the latest issue of the ISAR Journal, Vol. 36, Number 2, I published an article entitled “A lot has happened while you have been asleep… Education and Professionalism in the Age of Pluto in Capricorn.”

I have to admit that I don’t like my conclusions in this article, but they have profound implications for the future of astrology as a whole.

Here’s an excerpt:

“Professionalism” these days means more than just taking money occasionally to do a chart

So my point is this: while we have been having a wonderful time in astrology since the 1970’s and 1980’s, the society we live in has moved on from the model of education and professionalism that was still tenable in the 1970’s: a loose, informal process where educational quality is based on the reputation of the teacher or organization that gives the initials, and where professional skills development in areas such as counseling resembled the peer counseling training common at a rape crisis center of that era.

Please understand me: I am not criticizing the structures that developed; they were a necessary first step. But “professionalism” these days means more than just taking money occasionally to do a chart. The use of the word outside this very technical meaning is rapidly disappearing.

This leaves us with a dilemma in astrology: what do we want to be? If we want to be professionals, then the time is coming soon when we must embrace the professional education/licensing/certification model. With Pluto in Capricorn, do you really expect there will be much choice?

If we as a community decide we don’t want that – fine, but we will have to drop the word “professional” from our vocabulary.

Is current astrology training for a craft or a profession?

One alternative we could adopt is to restructure ourselves as a craft. Independent weavers, table makers, painters, and sculptors may have apprenticeship programs and guild-like structures: but an academic or vocational degree isn’t the usual prerequisite. In many respects, our current astrological institutions resemble this model far more closely than the professional model anyway. This may not have the status – but it would sustain us in our current community structure.

And of course, anyone can still learn astrology either self-taught or in small groups. The question is not astrology as hobby – but what happens when you take money for doing it.

This whole societal compulsion toward credentialing is nothing new: the Chinese developed this concept centuries ago. I think that having a mobile society where people don’t know each other tends to drive an interest in credentials: because, otherwise, how do you know if you’re getting the service you are hiring? But I think there is also a tremendous case to be made for this system collectively passing the buck. If a licensed professional does something according to the rules of his or her profession, then nobody can complain about it.

We can’t afford the ostrich position much longer

While I may oppose these trends, I don’t think that, as a community, we can afford the ostrich position much longer. It has already become apparent that there is bipartisan support for legislation against diploma mills in Congress: and I see no evidence that Democrats are any less interested in this than Republicans. If we allow ourselves only the option of reacting to legislation, rather than already moving on the issue, we are all too likely to find that we cannot create the institutions in time to avoid prosecution – because, make no mistake: until we wake up as a community and actually fight against the discrimination we face as astrologers, all of us are tempting targets. As it is, moving voluntarily, it will probably take about five years to get the infrastructure in place, and another ten years or so to get the system fully operational. By the way – this option does not mean that everybody currently in astrology would suddenly have to enroll in either Kepler College or Avalon School of Astrology (the two governmentally recognized schools at this time). There would probably be one very large grandfathering round – because everybody in the community would have to join – even the folks like me who sat out the NCGR exams and CAP. What all of us in the field would have to accept, though, is a formalized system of continuing education. But that could run just as well through conferences, courses at Avalon and Kepler or any other schools that become state authorized.

People expect credentials in all but very new fields.

For years when I lived in Florida, I had a business license entitled “Non-psychological consultant” – a title I adored, being a horary astrologer. But this looseness about consulting is slowly disappearing as a business model. People expect credentials in all but very new fields – and there, it’s just that the clock is ticking early in the developmental process. We are in one of the earth’s oldest fields. And in a time where the religious right has lost some political muscle, they just might enjoy the role of the bully with us.

Another way to look at it is this: if you examine the outer planet cycles for the next few years, can you honestly say this trend will falter? The fact is: as a nation, we are too populous. The more people, the more everyone gets sorted into bins, because bins are easier to handle than individuals. Things that were handled casually become institutionalized. Take real estate agents. Not too many years ago, if you wanted to be a real estate agent, you had to pass a test. Granted, those tests generated a lot of anxiety, because of the math. But now in North Carolina, you have to take a series of courses at a college or community college, and then you can take the test. And then once you have your broker’s license (brokers replaced agents here a few years back), then you have to take more courses as part of continuing education. And as the educational requirements increased, so did the number of vocational activities that required that educational credential. Now, in order to be a property manager, you have to be a broker. Before, you just had to know what you were doing.