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Author Topic: Should basic literacy be a requirement for a license?  (Read 17998 times)

Posts: 1834

« on: April 25, 2010, 08:37:14 PM »

I am troubled by this and do not know what to feel about amateur radio operators who do not have the basic skills to read and write.

I am not speaking of a mastery of the King's English with prose, grammar, punctuation, spelling and sentence structure. (I am, after all, an engineer "yesterday I cudnt spell enjuneer, today I are one"). I do not know how an individual could study the necessary materials to earn a license without some capacity to communicate in the written language.

Now I know that some may apply this to the blind but that is a true handicap and accommodations have been made to allow the blind to study the materials (braille).

I just do not know if ignorance and no formal education is a real handicap. Illiteracy should be overcome with remedial education programs. If someone has an actual disability that prevents them from learning to read and write I do not think that they could effectively communicate by radio other than in voice modes or even read the controls on a radio.

It is rare for me to find someone who is nearly illiterate on the internet but here is an example;

"I am wanying to bild a dule band antina four my shack was wondering if eny one out there knew where i could get plans I am neading to get on 2 meator and 440 can eny one help"

I am not trying to start some sort of fuss or to push peoples buttons. This is a legitimate concern I have. What are your opinions?

Tisha Hayes, AA4HA

Ms. Tisha Hayes, AA4HA
Lookout Mountain, Alabama

Posts: 7

« Reply #1 on: April 25, 2010, 08:46:23 PM »

I read that post on that "other" ham site, I am of the opinion that particular post was a TROLL.....

You have to admit "it worked very well" Grin

Posts: 5689

« Reply #2 on: April 25, 2010, 09:17:31 PM »

FWIW, Tisha, I called "troll" also about that post "over there". 

The giveaway for me was the spelling, "four"...


Posts: 641

« Reply #3 on: April 26, 2010, 02:02:59 AM »

The giveaway for me was the spelling, "four"...
Yep...he tried too hard.
You have to be "suttle" to fake it Smiley

basic skills to read and write.
You know about many to choose from Smiley
Had this been a "real post" find the principal of his grade school and spank him!!!!

Joking and the success of the educational system aside, given our interconnected world, as long as the ideas are coming across, that's "basic literacy" at work.


Posts: 4209

« Reply #4 on: April 26, 2010, 03:30:38 AM »

I am troubled by this and do not know what to feel about amateur radio operators who do not have the basic skills to read and write.

I share your concern - sort of. The quote is an obvious troll, but there are others, almost as bad, which are not trolls.

I don't think it's possible for a truly illiterate person (with sight, anyway) to get an amateur license, because the written test requires reading. AFAIK, the young children who have earned licenses have all been able to do so without help reading the test and answering the questions.

I think the non-troll situation breaks down into several categories:

- There are folks who have real disabilities, and can't tell the difference.

- There are folks whose educations and experiences are such that they never learned the difference between "lose" and "loose", they're/their/there, it's/its, etc.

- There are folks who just don't care. This takes many forms, from the folks who think "it's just the internet" or "it's just a hobby" to those who think their words are so important that every reader should exert the effort to decipher them.

Note that eham includes a spell checker, yet obvious mistakes get posted. Kinda sad when a licensed ham can't spell "amateur"!

- There are folks who intentionally mess up their posts to get others upset. They want to sound that way! It's really a form of trolling. That game isn't limited to literacy things; I've seen a few who intentionally post a few errors, misquotes, etc. in order to stir the pot.   

- Amateur radio includes a lot of technical and slang terms which some folks get confused. "Balum" is one example.

- There's a definite cultural element as well. Some folks think that a person who speaks with precision and clarity is puttin' on airs, and that carries over to writin'.

IMHO the only thing  we can do is to set a good example.


One more point:

Some folks get upset about "the educational system in this country". But there is no educational *system* in the USA; rather, there are thousands of them, ranging from world-class-excellent to completely useless. The good should not be lumped in with the bad, nor all judged by the results of a few.

73 de Jim, N2EY

Posts: 350

« Reply #5 on: April 26, 2010, 07:47:06 AM »


As as stated before, most of us regard that particular post as an obvious troll.

In his own strange way, the poster was trying to say what you did, but not as successfully as you.

In my opinion, this is not a literacy problem, but an internet problem. Unfortunately you can be a total idiot and still be able to access the internet and ham radio sites. Where the readers must discriminate is in our ability to remember that the internet is NOT amateur radio.

...and thank goodness for that!

We would all want to read well written intelligent posts, but that is simply not to be. Also, we would wish that our fellow amateur  radio operators would be intelligent enough to craft a well written and cogent post. That too, is apparently not possible.

In the meantime, we the readers of this drivel have to decide simply enough, whether or not to read. Speaking only for myself, if a post is unintelligible, I skip it and go on to the other posts. I can do this easily enough because I only read this stuff for entertainment.

I'm pretty well past the point where I'd have to rely on the internet for anything really important, like making a dipole antenna, tuning my amplifier/radio/antenna/ etc...

For real learning I go to the source: Usually a book written by someone who really understands the subject material.

Even then, I still have to try the thing(s) for myself before the ideas stick in my head.

I really do agree about your point regarding the internet and the ability to write; but nothing can be done, including this post. We're all just jousting with windmills here...

73 Gary

Posts: 522

« Reply #6 on: April 26, 2010, 08:27:54 AM »

I don't have an opinion on the "basic liiteracy" issue since I feel that getting a license without basic literacy is next to impossible.   I do feel that the discontinued CW requirement for a license should have been replaced with a typing requirement.  The growing popularity of the digital modes suggests that the need for typing skills among today's amateurs is as important as CW skills may have been in the past.

Posts: 21280

« Reply #7 on: April 26, 2010, 09:34:24 AM »

Probably not; there's no literacy test for a driver's license, or even a pilot's license.

Here in southern California, they give the driver's license written test in about twelve languages and AFAIK you needn't be literate in any of them. Tongue

Posts: 6493

« Reply #8 on: April 26, 2010, 10:56:03 AM »

AA4HA yes it bothers me. Folks who post questions here should take the time to make sure they spell correctly, use proper grammer, and supply enough information. Too often the questioner will include all sorts of useless information while leaving out something important such as the frequency in question.

Since we are taking the time to read and answer they should take the time to do their part right. Make it short and to the point.

Posts: 30

« Reply #9 on: April 26, 2010, 11:31:23 AM »

How about a basic test in "common sense"? But hey, there's nothing wrong with some kooky ham neighbor who uses his garage door as a counterweight while spinning around, of course working HF at the same time.

Gary, I know you said I should stick to scanner monitoring on the discone but that isn't working out too well either.

Posts: 2560

« Reply #10 on: April 26, 2010, 11:38:37 AM »

My wife teaches at a small private university; I taught full-time at a public community college for 24 years.  We're shocked by the declining literacy of incoming freshmen.  High school standards apparently aren't what they used to be.  

Posts: 2242

« Reply #11 on: April 26, 2010, 02:32:11 PM »

My wife teaches at a small private university; I taught full-time at a public community college for 24 years.  We're shocked by the declining literacy of incoming freshmen.  High school standards apparently aren't what they used to be.  
I agree. At the age of 48 I went back to school to complete a
degree I had started decades before. In a Radiation Physics course
whose prerequisites were Intermediate Algebra and one year of
college level Physics, I was astonished at questions the instructor
asked that were met with blank stares and silence.

After I solved an equation on the board, one young lady said;
"Gee Ken, you're really smart. Where did you learn how to do that?"
My reply: "Uh, 9th Grade Algebra".

Posts: 962

« Reply #12 on: April 26, 2010, 02:57:10 PM »

Forget about getting a license. How can anyone get anywhere in life if they can`t read? The answer is to start reading at an early age and never stop. That`s the only way.

Posts: 1834

« Reply #13 on: April 26, 2010, 03:06:41 PM »

Usually, education is the cure for ignorance and at one time it would have been considered shameful to be illiterate. In current times it appears to be almost a badge of courage to proclaim their lack of a rudimentary grade school education. What is scary is seeing this mindset carrying forward to their children.

In our society it is now discriminatory to deny someone a job because of poor skills in mathematics, writing and reading. In one of my previous jobs as a telco manager I had a basic mathematics test, a few word problems and a narrative response as part of the job interview process. I had folks who responded angrily at the test and indicated that they did not see why they needed to have the ability to write up a trouble ticket on a computer. BTW, the position was for a testing technician for a phone company where the employee would need to write a coherent trouble ticket so the field techs could resolve the customer issue. Finally, HR told me that I had to remove those questions from the interview and could only ask general verbal questions regarding a candidates abilities.

As a new VE I have been helping out existing teams when they need another VE for a session. One of the team leaders informed me that they have a guy who comes in for almost every test session who is totally illiterate. He expects that the VE team will make an accommodation to have a VE read him the test so he could make a mark on the answer sheet. Apparently he has taken the test around 15 times over the years and can be quite belligerent during the testing process when he feels that the VE is not "helping" him. I can see how one guy like this can be a major distraction during a test session and is "high maintenance". I volunteered that if this guy shows up during a session where I am a VE to let me read the questions to him. He will not get the slightest bit of "help" (i.e. stressing in your voice at what the right question is) and that if he wants to get abusive or disruptive with me he will find himself out of the test session. If he has shown up to take the test around 15 times I have to ask how is he studying at all. With that sort of desire for a license upgrade he should have gotten the point by now that he needs to improve his reading skills (and I assume some basic mathematics).

Tisha AA4HA
« Last Edit: April 26, 2010, 03:10:22 PM by Tisha Hayes » Logged

Ms. Tisha Hayes, AA4HA
Lookout Mountain, Alabama

Posts: 2527

« Reply #14 on: April 26, 2010, 06:48:59 PM »

I've more than adequately discharged my parenting responsibility.
No reason for me to try and parent anyone who doesn't follow the random spelling rules, either cannot or will not follow grammatical rules, is a narcissist or psychopath or sociopath.

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