RE: [TCP] certification (was: ranting STC)

Subject: RE: [TCP] certification (was: ranting STC)
From: Kevin McLauchlan <kmclauchlan -at- safenet-inc -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Tue, 6 Mar 2007 09:22:35 -0500

Lauren said:
> Is this a battle over the value of high school education over a higher
> education for technical writing? Is is a difference in
> definitions of terms?
> Or what?

I don't think so. I think that we are merely moving to the
extremes of the notion being discussed, with one crew
implying that if you didn't get it (it being some aspect
of skill that applies to techwriter working life) at some
brand-name Technical Writing degree course, followed by
a same-brand-name certification exam, then you don't
really have the skill (or can't prove it... as if your
everday _successful_ performance at your job isn't proof...).
The other crew is giving examples from other parts of life,
starting with most people's earliest exposure... and
attempting to show that:

a) much of what we do is _not_ rocket science, and is merely
actions that a large percentage of the population can do, but
we happen to like doing it (whereas most don't) and we happen
to be generally better at it (more talented, more temperamentally
suited?) than the large percentage of the population who
prefer to leave us to it.

b) there's a range of exposure to the concepts and skills,
and those who are talented (warped?) and interested that
way tend to develop those skills beyond the norm and pursue
employment that takes (and gives) advantage of such talent
and specialized effort.

> It seems like there might be a difference of terms here for
> "usability" and "meeting deadlines."
> Usability, from my understanding, for high school is
> usability as a high school paper with a general audience.
> Usability in technical writing is
> usability as a manual, white paper, plan, or other technical
> document and with a more specific audience.

I dunno. I had to turn in lab reports in high-school, where
the audience was a very specialized one - my physics teacher
or my chem or biology teachers. In college and in university,
it was physics or electronics or psychology professors, but
what they wanted really wasn't much different - an organized
presentation, according to a template that they accepted,
a lucid and condensed presentation (tables, graphs and
drawings) and conclusions. Granted, the subject matter and
the tools became more complex

> Meeting deadlines in high school, means to turn something in
> on time whether it is good or not.

If you wish to mince words, it means the same in the work world.
But then, since you've separated out quality of work, I put
it back in by noting that my teachers (high-school, college
and university) graded me on the content and presentation,
and my employers have their own standards of what is acceptable
work, which they 'grade' by paying me to keep doing more.
In both worlds, there was a quality component and a reward/punishment
associated to it, whether you choose to lump it in with the
punctuality component or separate it out. So what's the
point again?

> There is a lot of latitude in quality
> requirements for
> high school papers that does not exist in technical writing,

But then if you went to a technical college and/or a university,
you encountered similar requirements, but with higher
standards. Not totally unrelated standards, just a
continuation of, and improvement on the sorts of standards you
met in high-school. Just because you take a specifically tech
writerly program in college or university does not mean that
you suddenly come into some utterly alien requirements and
standards for work performed on-time and according to spec.

> so meeting a
> deadline will have a different context between the two
> disciplines (if high
> school success can be a discipline).

High-school was just an example (and not even mine, originally)
of the early encounters with the kinds of expectations for
content, organization, and punctuality that are later encountered
in the workplace. I seriously doubt that anybody on this list
has offered the high-school experience (as many and varied as
that can be...) as the be-all, end-all of training for those of
us who must meet deadlines and provide usable, useful product.

Also, I expect that there _are_ a few writers in this list
(maybe managers now... :-) who stopped their formal education
after high-school, but if they have since worked sucessfully
in their field for years, or decades, do you want to be the one
to tell them that they are not qualified to be doing what they
are doing every day, and to which they trained themselves or
were trained on-the-job?

For (I suspect) most of the rest of us, who went on to higher
institutional learning, but did not take tech-writing as a
degree, had either liberal arts or science or engineering,
in which we were rather forced to learn how to write to the
standard required by the people (professors and teaching
assistants) who gave us our feedback (marks/grades).

> Also, meeting a technical writing
> deadline will require some project management and that is not
> taught in high
> school. If it is taught at some high school, then it is not
> likely at the
> level it is in a higher education.

Again, was anybody seriously suggesting that any but the most
exceptional person can come out of highschool and become a
successful technical writer?

Wasn't the original point that, if you haven't had specific
college-level or techwriting-institute-level instruction in
"Meeting Deadlines" and "Usability", you've nevertheless
had exposure to those things, starting at least as far back
as highschool? If you got it again in college or university,
does it somehow "not count" if the course was not specifically
TW? Does it not count if your 100-page paper was for third-year
archeology, or if your multi-page lab report was for fifth-
generation fibre-optics and propagation modalities?

By the way, aren't any of us familiar with people who take
a small exposure to a concept or a skill, catch on quickly,
and run with it... while others need it beaten into their
heads repeatedly before they finally accept/grasp a
marginal competence in the same concept or skill?


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