Posted Friday, October 15 2010 at 16:19
Source: Daily Nation
Why are our long-term envoys to the capitals of other states called “diplomats”?

A reader wants to know if it is because they hold diplomas. That’s a good commonsensical guess. For, if diplomats do not hold diplomas, what then is their qualification?

The trouble is that common sense can affirm only things that are apparent. Because of that, common sense can prove catastrophic.

For millennia, common sense told us that the earth was flat. And, until very recently, the pope-civilised Europe was still executing those who questioned this common sense.

In general, yes, our officials abroad have tertiary education, where “tertiary” refers to “third-level schooling”, called so because it is the level next to secondary (“second-level”) schooling, which, in turn, is the level next to primary (“first-level”) schooling.

The adjective tertiary comes from a prototypical word from which all Indo-European languages have derived their words for “three”, including three and third themselves (English), troi (French) and drei (German).

However, “tertiary” is not confined to university training. All post-secondary academic regimes — all formal courses beyond high school — are tertiary. They include those offered by polytechnics and vocational colleges.

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