In 1968, the Harvard Graduate School of Education in Cambridge, Massachusetts, awarded me a degree, saying I was a Master of Education. In those days, it was possible to get such a degree at the age of 22 or 23, after a year of course work. Now, what does that mean: “Master of Education”?
Michelangelo finished his immortal Pietá at the age of 21, so perhaps he was a Master of Sculpture at that age, but it is said that he was around marble dust even as an infant, and he had been carving sculptures in marble for many years by the time he was 21.
My understanding is that in Medieval guilds, it took some time to be acknowledged as a Master in any of the crafts. One had to serve a number of years as an apprentice, then some years as a journeyman, then, if ready to do so, it was necessary to offer a “Master–Piece” of work, which, if accepted by the other Masters of the guild, could earn for the craftsman the rank of Master in that craft. Of course these days we throw around the term “masterpiece” without much thought of what it meant, just as we can call something a “classic” when it is brand new, or even a soft drink. J.S. Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” is a classic, but then so are one version of Coke, and the Army/Navy game.
The degree of Master has to be earned over time even now in other fields as well. The one best thing for me that came out of my time at the Harvard Ed School was the recommendation by my advisor, a kindly professor of statistics, that I read Professor Eugen Herrigel’s book, Zen in the Art of Archery. This fine book lead me to