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Jordan Peterson, Professional Licensing Agencies, & the Tall Poppy Syndrome - Part I

Doug Garland
Doug Garland
3 min read
Jordan Peterson, Professional Licensing Agencies, & the Tall Poppy Syndrome - Part I
Matilija poppies are truly tall poppies and grow over 8' tall. Photo by author.

Table of Contents

Tall trees catch much wind.

                            Chinese Idiom

Tall Poppies (TP) are not determined by a ballot box; it is very subjective. My TP may not be your TP. Government agencies, often three letters, cut down many people (The Tall Poppy Syndrome: The Joy of Cutting Others Down).

Jordan Peterson is an example of both. He is a traditionalist champion and may not be a TP for many on the left. However, he and/or his persona have universal lessons for all regarding TPS.

Professional Licensing Agencies are state government organizations that license and discipline their respective professions. Their mission is to protect the consumer and prevent harm through proper licensing and regulations by setting standards of conduct and ethics. They have a complaint section that is required to investigate any consumer complaint.

For many years professional boards and malpractice attorneys reigned in malicious behavior. Many clients understood that legal suits were balanced in their favor and would be settled out of court for a recognized financial threshold. They filed "nuisance suits" knowing malpractice insurance carriers wanted small suits "off the books." A shift toward the clinician's outcome occurred when malpractice definitions narrowed and the out-of-court settlement thresholds went away.

Many potential victims no longer sued the professional knowing they might incur a financial loss. Instead, minor inconsequential complaints that made the victim angry were submitted to the board which became a hassle factor for the professional. This was really a form of revenge with the board doing the dirty work. Victims were using professional agencies to cut down the professional (TPS) which became the first wave of weaponization of these agencies.  

Now some professionals complain that boards have become politicized and weaponized by the political preference of the people administering them just as some federal agencies have done. The list of client bad behaviors has been expanded far beyond the original legislation and some appear outside the scope of the boards.

Jordan Peterson was born (1962) and raised in Alberta, Canada. He earned bachelor's degrees in political science and psychology from the University of Alberta and a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from McGill University. He remained at McGill as a post-doctoral fellow until 1993.

Peterson taught and performed research at Harvard University's psychology department (1993-1998). He returned to Canada in 1998, maintained a clinical practice, and became a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto.  In 2018, he discontinued his clinical practice and resigned from the University of Toronto due to his increase in social media presence. Peterson's professional board received only one complaint against him during his twenty years of clinical practice.

In February 2018, Peterson had a professional misconduct complaint about his communication and the boundaries he sets with his patients. The College of Psychologists of Ontario did not think a full disciplinary hearing was necessary and accepted Peterson's entering into a three-month undertaking to work on prioritizing his practice and improving his patient communications. This was part of the genesis of his retirement from clinical practice.

In 2013 Peterson began his social media enterprises which have grown in leaps and bounds. He has millions of followers on his YouTube channel, Twitter account, and podcasts and is a popular guest on other social media events. He is also a best-selling author.

As a traditionalist, not as a right winger, Peterson frequently tackles political correctness, identity politics, and gender expression and care. It is the latter that has caused him the most ignominy.  In a 2016 video, he objected to the Canadian government's Bill C-16 which proposed to add "gender identity or expression" as a prohibited ground of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act.

This stance and comments on a podcast regarding air pollution and tweets regarding actor Elliot Page prompted complaints to The College of Psychologists of Ontario. They ordered Peterson to complete a coaching program on professionalism in public statements. Peterson argued that he was not treating patients, none of these complaints were from his patients, and it violated his freedom of expression. Furthermore, he was not making those comments in his capacity as a clinical psychologist, but rather “off-duty opinions.”

Peterson sued the College. The Ontario Divisional Court recently agreed with The College of Psychologists of Ontario’s order that Peterson complete a coaching program on professionalism in public statements. If Peterson still disagrees with the decision, he can resign from the College or appeal the decision.

Is this an attack on Peterson's freedom of expression? Will organizations with political agendas or leadership be empowered to cut down opposing individual freedoms and people (TPS)?

I will let you decide.

Theo Von is an American stand-up comedian, actor, television personality, and podcaster. He is the host of the podcast "This Past Weekend ." His latest guest is Jordan Peterson who discusses his predicament and related issues: "This Past Weekend with Theo Von - Jordan Peterson 460." This is an engaging and insightful interview. For TPS enthusiasts, TPS is mentioned twenty-five minutes into the podcast.


tall poppy syndrome

Doug Garland Twitter

Douglas Garland, M.D. practiced orthopedic surgery for 37 years in Southern California. Doug was also a Clinical Professor of Orthopedics at the University of Southern California.


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