Re: Certification

Subject: Re: Certification
From: Robert Plamondon <robert -at- PLAMONDON -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 27 Dec 1995 08:44:51 PST

Bill Burns writes:

>I think a bit more care should be taken when we make such comments about
>other professions. In addition to being personally offended by such
>comments (since my father is a very hard-working child psychiatrist and
>pediatrician), I think it reflects poorly on us as professionals to make
>such overgeneralizations about members of other professions.

I made no observations whatever about the members of any profession.
I merely listed the benefits made possible by the combination of
relentless work to improve the social stature of doctors and lawyers
that has happened over the last hundred years or so (especially with
doctors, since the legal profession organized sooner), plus the usual
benefits of being organized into a guild structure.

The plumbing business, for example, pays better than comparable
crafts -- if you can get in at all. That's how guilds work. The
doctoring and lawyering businesses are organized the same way. Thus,
while you and I can set up shop as writers with no credentials or
certifications of any sort, we would be hauled off to jail if we
announced ourselves as doctors and lawyers, and we'd probably get
slapped with whopping fines if we declared ourselves to be in the
plumbing business.

Personally, I don't like guild structures. But you can't be doctor,
lawyer, or plumber without joining one, and I don't blame people for
joining the status quo, especially when it's the only way to achieve
their dreams. But guilds are an ancient structure, steeped in
tradition, and I don't expect others to dislike, think about, or
even notice the established ones. I just don't want to create
any new ones.

No doubt the Tech Writing profession will "mature" just as the
programming profession has. I've seen managers, who otherwise
struck me as being reasonable human beings, who refused to hire
programmers unless they had an appropriate degree from a list of
five or ten "top programming schools." Actual ability and experience
was essentially a tiebreaker used among those candidates with
the proper credentials. The only result of this policy, as far
as I could tell, was a greatly lengthened hiring cycle.

Now, I don't know about you, but I chose my college when I was
a teenager. I am not terribly happy about a system in which one's
teenage decisions outweigh all subsequent experience.

Certification might possibly be an adult-ed sort of thing, but
I think the likely route is that degrees will be considered to be
the important thing, and that certificates like that of De Anza
College's "you took six classes, you're a tech writer" will grow
into associates' and bachelors' degrees in Technical Writing on
a widespread basis, and that we Pioneers of Modern Technical Writing
will be forever uncertified, just as the Programmers of the Early
Days are.

And, like the Programmers of the Early Days, we'll do just fine.

-- Robert

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