Well OK Keith, you got me thinking about it. Damn you!
So why not just do away with multiple license classes and testing altogether? By your logic (convoluted as it is), all tests are discriminatory (and therefore illegal) since the entire amateur radio serves no purpose whatsoever, not just the Amateur Extra class.
If you had bothered to read any of what I've already posted in this thread (as well as what I've posted in my blog) you'd know that what you suggest is absolutely NOT what I'm advocating.
First of all, the ITU regulations make it quite clear that we are to be both tested
. So, neither requirement is about to go away any time soon. But, short of a small "laundry list" of topics, those regulations are completely silent on how comprehensive those tests are supposed to be.
As I've also said, most other licensing systems for our Service in the rest of the world specifically withhold operating privileges from lower class licensees based primarily on safety
considerations rather than on rewarding "exclusive" slices of artificially walled-off sub-spectrum to higher class licensees.
Indeed, what I've been advocating in these and other forums is that the USA needs to stop
focusing their licensing system on creating budding RF Engineers and, instead, make the questions on the US exams actually match the operating privileges those licenses grant.
Right now, that isn't happening.
And, contrary to your accusations, if this new approach leads to a more technically comprehensive (i.e. "harder") exam "up front", then SO BE IT!
In fact, that's exactly
what Canada does right now with their Basic exam...an exam that ALL Canadian hams must now pass in order to get ANY license for our Service in that country.... even for VHF and UHF operation.
I know from my own personal experience (from administering them) that the 100-question Canadian Basic exam is a whopper of a test that not everyone passes the first time...or the second...or the third…or even the fourth! You actually have to "know your stuff" to pass it.
And, with 100 questions pulled out of a 900-item question bank, I've also found that it is extremely hard (if not impossible) for candidates to simply "memorize the test". That's probably because the Canadian Basic exam is roughly equivalent in content and comprehensiveness to our US Tech and General exams put together.
But, even so, there's still a difference.
That is, rather than focusing on testing obscure parts of our hobby that few (if any of us) will ever need to know about (let alone use!) that Basic exam focuses specifically
on examining only those skills and knowledges that hams will absolutely "need to know" in order to keep themselves (and their neighbors) safe and/or from causing harmful interference to other hams or other services.
What's more, unlike our current US Tech license (based on successfully completing a horrifically un
-comprehensive, 35-question exam) that grants high power operating and transmitter construction privileges right from day one
, holders of the Canadian Basic certificate are STILL limited to running only 250 watts of power.
Canadian Basics also cannot build transmitters "from scratch" (kits are OK) and they can't hold the license of an in-band repeater or club station, or give exams. To do those things, they need to pass yet another
, 50-question exam over much more technically oriented subject matter.
That is, unlike our General and Extra Class exams that simply ask more obscure questions about subject matter relating to operating privileges that have (in most cases) already been granted
to lower-class licensees in the US system, the Canadian Advanced exam is anything but
yet another "achievement test".
To put it bluntly, it's a big-time toughie over a whole lot of new material!
However, even though it is a much more comprehensive and technically oriented exam, it still focuses on examining only those added technical knowledges and skills that Advanced certificate holders absolutely need to know
in order to keep themselves and their neighbors safe (and themselves from causing harmful interference) while exercising those newly granted (high power and repeater-enabled) privileges.
The bottom line here is that candidates for licenses in our Service in Canada are examined NOT based on their "achievements" or with an aim to "educate" them into becoming budding RF engineers. Rather, Canadian licensed candidates are examined on what they absolutely need to know
to do certain things in our Service based primarily on safety and non-interference concerns…and nothing more.
And before some in our ranks once again accuse me of trying to breed "mediocrity" in our Service, please understand that I am NOT advocating that we "water down" our exam structure any further!
To the contrary, what I AM advocating is that we need to "front end load" our examination requirements and then subsequently examine only
those things that we all know (from our own experiences) are specifically required keep ourselves and others safe while also helping to prevent us all from becoming a nuisance to other hams or other services.
Such an approach would, indeed, make an "Extra Class" license totally irrelevant, and therefore absolutely unnecessary. Which, as I've said, it already is.
This approach would get the FCC out of the "education" business (where they absolutely don't belong and where their "incentive" system has proven to be a dismal failure in that regard) and back into simply examining us for basic (and advanced) technical and regulatory competencies that are specifically relevant to what we actually do…on the air…as modern hams in the 21st Century.
Or, to put it another way, this approach gets our examination system back into the business of examining skills and knowleges based on "needs" rather than for some obscure modicum of educational "achievement".
That's not advocating "mediocrity" in our Service. To the contrary, it's examining applicants for a license in our Service for the right
set of needed technical and regulatory skills at the right
times in our ham radio "careers".
Amateur radio is a nothing more than a recreational past time, period. Despite what the ARES/RACES crowd would like you to believe, the amateur radio service does not serve any need, at the federal level or otherwise.
But, under the ITU rules, ours is still a separate and (now) long-established radio service...the Amateur Radio Service....and is therefore subject to regulation.
And the "regulatory need" I'm talking about here is NOT whether (or not) the Service "needs" to exist. Rather, it's about whether the system of rules, regulations and licensing for our Service (all of which the ITU says we must have) are fairy and impartially applied
as well as based on safety and non-interference considerations that are directly
relevant to the (added) privileges those licensing systems grant.
What's more, for the FCC, this means that their implementing regulatory systems (particularly their system for examining license applicants for our Service under Part 97) must also
remain in conformance with the REST of the US Federal Code.
As I've shown, right now, Part 97 (as it's currently written and implemented) fails these tests...on all counts.
Sure, we use spectrum space that is managed (and I use the term loosely) by the FCC, but the precedent has already been set since there are other non-commercial "citizens" and "family" radio services that do not require testing or a license.
But, as I said, according to the ITU (not just the FCC) the Amateur Radio Service isn't
one of them.
Of course the hard part would be getting the IARU on board with this, but maybe not. They are the ones who determined that Morse code proficiency tests served no longer served any useful purpose and all the FCC did was incorporate their resolution into Part 97.
While the IARU certainly had a hand in RECOMMENDING that Morse testing be made optional, it was the ITU
that ultimately did so. That's because the IARU is simply an international lobby group that (supposedly) looks out for our interests at the international level.
But it's the ITU that ultimately writes the intertnational rules.
[qupte] I guess we could become just like the Citizens Radio Service and eliminate licensing altogether, but let's take one step at a time.[/quote]
As I said, unless there is a WORLDWIDE groundswell on the part of a majority of the world's amateur radio lobby organizations (not to mention individual national governments) doing away with all testing and licensing in our Service simply isn't going to happen....at least not in your or my lifetimes.
KB1SF / VA3KSF / VA3OBkb1sf.blogspot.com