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Subject:Re: Certification From:"Arlen P. Walker" <Arlen -dot- P -dot- Walker -at- JCI -dot- COM> Date:Wed, 12 Jul 1995 09:56:00 -0600
OK. I was going to leave this topic alone this time around, since I really
haven't anything new to add to what I said on it the last three times it came
by. But there's something that needs to be said, and said often enough that
people finally get it firmly entered into their minds.
Technical "writers" who are not degreed in the profession, and/or who
simply drifted into it from some other profession, are lousy writers who
do not understand the basic precepts of grammer, syntax, punctuation,
style . . .you name it.
OK. Here it is: There is no educational program, no test, absolutely no
indicator whatsoever you can use to judge writing skill except the writing
I'll say it again, in case someone wasn't listening. NOTHING COUNTS FOR BEANS
EXCEPT THE WRITING ITSELF! No sheepskin, no "certificate." Nada. Zip. Zero.
A major factor in test scores (*any* test score) is the simple ability to take
tests. Some people can do a particular job masterfully, but cannot take a test
covering even a small subset of those skills and achieve a passing grade. The
artificial circumstances of the test hinder them, like the centipede who ended
up laying in a ditch because it couldn't answer the question "which foot comes
after which?" Other people are excellent at feeding back what they are told
under test circumstances without necessarily understanding and being able to use
any of it. They are excellent data recorders and playback units, but gain no
insight or understanding. Still others (and I'm one of these) can pass tests
without knowing anything at all about the subject matter. (I got three college
credits in "Ancient Civilizations" without ever studying the subject. I simply
paid the CLEP test fee and spent an hour in the testing room, putting whatever
came to mind down on paper.)
It is perfectly possible to get a sheepskin without learning anything
whatsoever. It's done every year, at every institution. Degrees only serve to
prove conclusively that you stayed alive for length of time specificed, and that
you spent a major portion of that time in a specified geographical area. (Note I
didn't say it was impossible to learn anything while getting a degree, just that
it isn't necessary to learn anything. Spare me the assertions that I claim no
one ever learned anything in college. That *isn't* what I said or meant.)
Furthermore, there is nothing whatsoever that you can learn in a degree program
that someone cannot *also* learn outside of one. There's nothing magical about a
classroom that gives it a better connection to the brain.
Degrees and certifications are items on a checklist, nothing more, nothing less.
A passing score on a test, any test, simply proves the person was able to pass
the test. It proves very little about knowledge, understanding, or real-world
They embarrass the profession and the companies they work for and take up
job slots for which qualified professionals are hungry and deserving.
Oh, no! "They" are now stealing jobs which are rightfully "ours!" How *dare*
"they?" (Let's get something else straight. No one ever got a job simply because
they were hungry and deserved it. People work for the jobs they get -- and
sometimes get lucky. Show me a "hungry and deserving" professional out of work
and I'll show you someone who is at best unlucky. If this professional is truly
"hungry and deserving" then the unemployed state won't last long. As you pointed
out, there's a dearth of real talent in the field. Unfortunately, instead of
bringing more competant writers into the field, you seem to want to keep writers
out of the field, regardless of competance. Doesn't seem consistent.)
I'm for certification, if for no other reason than to keep the bar raised
high enough to filter these rascals out. There, I've said it and I feel
Of course. It just wouldn't *do* for someone to come along and be able to do my
job unless they've paid their dues in the same way *I* have, now, would it?
After all, we can't let just *anyone* write, no matter how good they are. We've
got to make sure they are just like us, first.
I'm sorry folks, but this particular attitude is one that I find offensive in
the extreme. At its heart it fails to satisfactorily answer the question "who is
qualified to certify?" Before there is a certification process there must be a
collective arrogance which stands up and says "*We* are the standard by which
all you riff-raff will be judged. *Our* terminology, *our* paradigms, *our*
values are the only ones which can possibly be considered professional. The rest
of you are worthless. Get thee hence!"
I say let 'em all write, and let the complaint department sort 'em out!
Companies who care about their documentation will keep the good ones and let the
bad ones go. Companies who don't care will make sure the good writers produce
bad documentation in any case, so what does it matter?
From another post:
This is why I've chosen to pursue a certification: the people
with initials like other people with initials. It adds credibility
in the eyes of my coworkers. I don't pretend that it's a panacea.
I don't think it's going to give me skills I don't already have.
Diogenes, put down that lamp! We've found one! Over here! Yes, initials like
initials, and not because of any intrinsic worth in the initials. More likely
it's because it validates their own acquisition of them.
I've never said certification programs shouldn't exist. They just shouldn't be
mandatory. If you want to certify, do so. Just don't presume it makes you a
better writer, or that it indicates you're automatically a better writer than
someone who *isn't* certified. It's that last notion which is truly
Chief Managing Director In Charge, Department of Redundancy Department
Arlen -dot- P -dot- Walker -at- JCI -dot- Com
In God we trust; all others must provide data.