Re: Engineering approach to certification

Subject: Re: Engineering approach to certification
From: "Wing, Michael J" <mjwing -at- INGR -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 18 Nov 1998 12:01:07 -0600


To save space, I think I can paraphrase the remaining arguments this
that a recognition program is senseless and useless, and even if
will gradually force out of the profession a host of promising young
The testing would inevitably be taken over by language-arts-focused
There are too many diverse skills to test fairly. I also sense an
stand that although no one would take such a thing seriously, it
nonetheless have a devastating effect on practitioners everywhere.

My response is a general one...let those of us who value such a
thing have a
program and participate in it. Those who don't care to, can refrain

This is the same thing you proposed a few messages ago only this
time with a polite "(please) let us ..." instead of, "it's going to happen
so either get on the boat or drown" demeanor.

No governmental agency exists to enforce recognition before hiring;
no state, no federal agency, no group of any kind has advocated
licensure of
technical communicators, nor is anyone likely to do so.

No, not yet. All regulatory, authoritarian, and controlling cartels
start with a, "no one is going to hurt you" promise. What I want to know is
what is the real end goal of these proposals. I don't believe for a moment
it is altruistic. What is the real agenda?

Without clear explanation and definition I can't help but believe
the agenda is to minimize competition by disqualifying them rather than
plain outdoing them. This is done by tailoring the requirements to your own
strengths while steering them away from your competition's strengths.

No professional recognition program has ever resulted in eventual
licensing; indeed, it has forestalled it in some cases where governmental
agencies were threatening to
do it themselves. No recognition program has ever restricted a
practitioner's right to practice, although if it is a good enough
market forces will benefit the holders by making it easier to get
good jobs.

OK, part of the agenda is showing through. That is, holders of this
magic certificate could make it easier to get good jobs. So far, it
(outwardly) looks altruistic. Hey, I'm all for getting good jobs. However,
I would like to beat my competition on a level playing field not disqualify
them on a technicality.

The statement of "benefit the holders" tends to support my theory
that the agenda is reducing competition instead of beating the competition.
By "benefit the holders", you must mean in relation to non-holders. If
this is not a statement saying that certification is used as leverage
against competition, I don't know what is. I thought the "benefit" of
certification was to raise our perceived value in the eyes of the world and
to draw together in concert. Instead, it seems that it is used to push each
other off the chairs and reduce the size of the orchestra.

Let those of us who care to help define a set of core competencies
do so,
without threats and shrill denunciation, and let those of us so
minded mold
a recognition program around those core competencies.

You mean, "shut up about it and don't stand in my way!" You can
drop that idea right now. I'll argue against it until my last breath.

Those who choose not to participate can simply go on with their
lives as they were.

... and wait for it to reach us unobstructed. Nice try, but no

If market forces then benefit the holders of the recognition, we who
participate will
have a payoff for all of our hard work. If market forces do not
benefit us,
we will have thrown away that effort. But it would be for us to
whether or not to take the risk. All we would ask is that we not be
denounced for taking that risk.

What you're saying is to let you develop the disease unfettered and
if it gets big enough, we adapt or succumb, or if we are lucky, it will die
out on its own.

Many organizations have established recognition programs. Some have
rescinded them after some time has passed. Only time can judge
whether it
benefits us or not. But we should not let fear be the deciding vote
whether we establish such a program or not: fear of not measuring
up, fear
of encroachment, fear of eventual licensure, fear of each other.

Tim Altom

Tim, if your agenda is altruistic, then tell us how it is
non-threatening, how it benefits all, how it can be fairly implemented
(which I think is impossible), and tells us how it guarantees that people
outside the profession will hold us in greater regard. Please do it without
the hyperbole and the rhetoric.

If your agenda is to gain a competitive edge, please come clean. If
it benefits a business that exists on beating out others on a
contract-to-contract basis and/or convincing companies to use their services
instead of their own writers, then present the agenda as being a competitive
advantage. I say this because your arguments carry a mixed message. There
is a lot of philosophical talk about joining the "wine and cheese" crowd by
raising us to the prestige of doctors and lawyers, but there are plenty of
concrete examples of "competitors being just secretaries typing in Word",
"benefits of holders beating out others for jobs", "getting rid of cowboys".
This is also glossed over with arcane descriptions of what will be tested
and who constructs the tests.

Mike Wing

Michael Wing (mailto:mjwing -at- ingr -dot- com)
Staff Writer
Intergraph Corporation; Huntsville, Alabama

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