RE: Tech Writer Lawsuit

Subject: RE: Tech Writer Lawsuit
From: "McLauchlan, Kevin" <Kevin -dot- McLauchlan -at- safenet-inc -dot- com>
To: "Gene Kim-Eng" <techwr -at- genek -dot- com>, "Ned Bedinger" <doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 29 May 2008 13:53:17 -0400

Gene said:
> Business adminstration, marketing and accounting probably
> don't etiher, and yet people working in those fields don't seem
> to be suffering from any inability to think of themselves as
> professionals. Before entering the field of technical writing,
> I would have expected that people who put in the four years
> necessary to achieve a bachelor's degree in English or
> journalism would walk out of the door with diploma in hand
> and the ability to see themselves on the same professional
> level as an engineer, but for some reason that often isn't the
> case if they're technical writers.

As with anyone who flitted a bit before alighting on their eventual
academic path, I have some exposure to artsy courses, sciencey courses
and engineering-y courses. Rigor was required in all, but the form and
scope of that rigor was different.

Somebody coming out of school with a bachelor of arts is certainly more
widely and deeply educated than someone who only graduated highschool
(bit of a truism there, but bear with me). However, an arts degree is
the one that's generally viewed as just a "rounding" education,
preparing the student to choose the specialty that they'll pursue if
they take advanced degrees. It's possible to garner respect simply for
having an arts degree, but usually it has to be a Masters or Doctorate.
The rigor that enters into such fields of study is the formalizing of
studying other people's words and contributions. The language scholar
and the history scholar delve into old records and opinions, but all
they do with it is add a little validation to somebody else's opinion.
They rarely come up with new principles. Even repeatable conclusions are
a stretch.

In a large sense, it doesn't _matter_ if a historical fact is corrected
or a new letter by some ancient author suggests that this or that school
of thought was correct about his motivation and intended meaning when he
wrote such-and-such a book or play. Nobody in the present is going to
change or improve their lives because of the discovery or the revised
opinion.

Science postulates and uncovers new things, then devises ways to test
and repeatably validate the new thing, and surmises the implications of
the new thing (or new understanding of old things). Science advances our
understanding of the world and, eventually, the utility that we derive
from it. Occasionally, the use of science has the opposite effect, but
either way, the actions and pursuits of scientists have tangible,
measurable outcomes that affect the living world and our place in it.
If your rigor, as a scientist, is not up to the task, then you are found
out and discredited by nature itself. And of course there's all that
math. :-)
Scientists figure out how the world (the universe) is made.

Engineering has even-more-tangible effects on the world and on people's
lives, because it implements the discoveries of science as real-world,
functional technology. Engineers do their thing and stuff _happens_!
The earth moves. Water changes its flow, or comes up from the depths.
Structures rise. Mechanical equipment comes into being, changing the
world or changing our capabilities within the world. Electrons do weird
and wonderful things that produce light, heat, information/calculation.
And of course, there's all that math.

Engineers (and applied scientists) bend the world, sometimes help us
make our mistakes at what we do to the world and always help us fix
those mistakes.

All three of artsy-scholarship, science, and engineering, take place in
the mind, but the latter two bring physical change into the world where
you and I live.

So, I think that's why the science and engineering disciplines "get more
respect" than the artsy ones. All that math, too.

I can't recall whether it was Clarke or Heinlein who said that his
definition of "human" included competence in mathematics.... but I
could Google it. Google couldn't exist without scientists and
engineers. A lot of the stuff that Google searches and finds owes its
existence to non-scientists and non-engineers, to be sure, but you
wouldn't be Googling without those scientists and engineers.

Arts and letters were esteemed in the times when they were practiced by
only the highly educated few. The ordinary people had to pay a scribe to
write a message or record a transaction, and to read to them any
messages and records that they needed to know.

These days, effectively everybody can read and write, so those and
related skills are not esteemed. They're ordinary, until you need
somebody who does them well, and then, just like driving, you (the
ordinary Joe and Jane) are unable/unwilling to admit that your
capability and practice of such ordinary skill might be less than
superb.

We might be talking about the difference between holding people in
esteem [not] for something that you can do, but they can perhaps do
better, versus holding them in esteem for something that they can do,
but you can't do at all.

Without higher education, most people can still read, write and find
information. Without higher education, almost nobody can perform real
science and engineering.

I esteem genuinely and demonstrably accomplished persons of the liberal
arts, but consider the mere possession of a BA to be the bottom of the
post-secondary barrel, and the one most demanding of further study and
specialization to warrant more than casual respect.

Kevin

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Follow-Ups:

References:
Tech Writer Lawsuit: From: Darcy Rumbold
Re: Tech Writer Lawsuit: From: Ned Bedinger
RE: Tech Writer Lawsuit: From: Bonnie Granat
Re: Tech Writer Lawsuit: From: Gene Kim-Eng
RE: Tech Writer Lawsuit: From: Bonnie Granat
Re: Tech Writer Lawsuit: From: Gene Kim-Eng
RE: Tech Writer Lawsuit: From: Bonnie Granat
Re: Tech Writer Lawsuit: From: Gene Kim-Eng
Re: Tech Writer Lawsuit: From: Ned Bedinger
Re: Tech Writer Lawsuit: From: Gene Kim-Eng
Re: Tech Writer Lawsuit: From: Ned Bedinger
Re: Tech Writer Lawsuit: From: Gene Kim-Eng

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