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Author Topic: Should basic literacy be a requirement for a license?  (Read 12335 times)
KE3WD
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Posts: 5689




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« Reply #30 on: May 01, 2010, 05:39:51 PM »

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.


You do realize you mispelled, "grammar" in that rant, don't you?  
« Last Edit: May 01, 2010, 05:43:45 PM by Clark McDonald » Logged
N2EY
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Posts: 3894




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« Reply #31 on: May 02, 2010, 06:31:49 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.


You do realize you mispelled, "grammar" in that rant, don't you?  

Skitt’s Law

Expressed as "any post correcting an error in another post will contain at least one error itself" or "the likelihood of an error in a post is directly proportional to the embarrassment it will cause the poster."
 
It is an online version of the proofreading truism Muphry’s Law, also known as Hartman's Law of Prescriptivist Retaliation: "any article or statement about correct grammar, punctuation, or spelling is bound to contain at least one eror".

----

Note: "Muphry's Law" is not a typo

73 de Jim, N2EY
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AA4HA
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Posts: 1482




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« Reply #32 on: May 02, 2010, 08:00:39 AM »

I would be tempted to ask the applicant how they studied for the test in the first place. Did they have someone read them the manual and they memorized the study guides?

Folks like this do slip between the cracks by taking the test so many times that they accidentally get a passing score.

I cannot see how they have the basic math skills to deal with P=I*E, E/(I*R). Reading is a prerequisite for many levels of mathematics beyond addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Getting into AC formulas, resonance, lengths vs. wavelength, etc. requires a decent understanding of why things work the way they do.

Too bad the question pools are published. I would prefer that similar questions were in the study guides but not the actual questions and answers.

Tisha, AA4HA
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Ms. Tisha Hayes, AA4HA
Lookout Mountain, Alabama
N2EY
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Posts: 3894




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« Reply #33 on: May 02, 2010, 08:26:51 AM »


Too bad the question pools are published. I would prefer that similar questions were in the study guides but not the actual questions and answers.


Couple of points:

1) The tests cover an assortment of subjects, not just theory. And it only takes a 74 to pass. So a prospective ham can have enormous gaps in his/her knowledge and still pass. A lot of the rules/regs/procedures questions are really common sense once you understand a little bit about Part 97.

2) The tests are all multiple-choice and there's no penalty for a wrong answer. As you know, pure random guessing on a 4-choice exam should give a score of 25.

FCC doesn't care whether somebody rote-memorized the Q&A, knows and understands the theory and regs by heart, sort-of understands the material, simply guessed right, or any combination of the above. As long as someone doesn't cheat, they pass.

3) Exact memorization of the questions and answers isn't necessary. Word-association and other memory methods will often do.

4) Besides the suspected individual mentioned earlier, are there really any truly illiterate people trying to get amateur licenses? Sure, the writing skills of some hams give one pause, but writing and reading aren't the same thing.

---

Historic notes:

- The Q&A didn't used to be published, at least not legally (see "Bash books"). When the FCC created the VEC/QPC system, the Q&A were published because there was really no way to keep them secret.

- The reason FCC created the VEC/QPC system was simple: It saved them resources - meaning money and people. The work of paid government employees with good benefits was replaced by the work of unpaid volunteers who, AFAIK, don't even get to claim their time and expenses as tax deductions.

- There used to be a rule that if you failed a test, even by just 1 question, you had to wait 30 days to try again. This and other features of the old system caused most prospective hams to "overlearn" so that they'd avoid the hassle of retesting.

- There was also a rule that routine Novice, Technician and Conditional licenses were only available "by mail". The by-mail process took a long time, so again most hams would "overlearn".

I'd prefer "secret" tests too, but it's not going to happen any time soon. The commercial license Q&A are published too - try to sell the FCC on the concept that it's a bad idea....

73 de Jim, N2EY
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K7KBN
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Posts: 2813




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« Reply #34 on: May 02, 2010, 09:48:50 AM »

With all of the questions here and on other forums about how to wire up a key for operating CW, I have to wonder if many of the new hams have tried to read the operator's manual for their radios.  Or if they have the ability to understand what a Novice would have 40-50 years ago.

And then I notice that these new hams have 1X2 or 2X1 calls.  Them, I don't help.

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73
Pat K7KBN
CWO4 USNR Ret.
N2EY
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Posts: 3894




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« Reply #35 on: May 02, 2010, 11:26:07 AM »

With all of the questions here and on other forums about how to wire up a key for operating CW, I have to wonder if many of the new hams have tried to read the operator's manual for their radios.  Or if they have the ability to understand what a Novice would have 40-50 years ago.

And then I notice that these new hams have 1X2 or 2X1 calls.  Them, I don't help.



I think you're missing a fundamental change that's happened over the past 40-50 years. (I was a Novice back in 1967 so I kinda know what it was like).

The old 1967 Novice had very limited privileges. My 1967 one only allowed 75 watts of crystal controlled CW on small parts of 80, 40, 15 and 2 meters. Nothing else. The license was only good for 2 years and you couldn't get another one.

Ham gear back then was very expensive compared to today, once you factor inflation, and most of it didn't have a lot of features.

The result was that the Novices of those old times focused all their efforts on a a few bands, one mode, and figuring out how to assemble a station with whatever funds were available. Many a Novice only worked one or two bands, with very simple gear. There were lots of books and articles aimed squarely at the Novice's needs - which were easy to understand because the privileges were so limited.

In those days one had to know certain things just to get a station on the air. Much of it was learned by trial-and-error.

And if a ham of any vintage made a mistake or didn't know something, there was no internet to let the whole world know.

Today's beginner usually faces a completely different situation. All licenses that are issued new offer a wide variety of bands, modes, and other options. Even the "beginner's rigs" are loaded with menus, features, options, etc. 

The result is that a beginner today (and many non-beginners) often knows a little bit about a lot of things in ham radio but doesn't know a lot about anything. That's not the beginner's fault unless s/he refuses to learn.

I'll help anybody I can who asks questions in good faith.

73 de Jim, N2EY
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AA4HA
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Posts: 1482




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« Reply #36 on: May 02, 2010, 03:28:38 PM »

The result is that a beginner today (and many non-beginners) often knows a little bit about a lot of things in ham radio but doesn't know a lot about anything. That's not the beginner's fault unless s/he refuses to learn.

That is another disadvantage of the current state of things. There is not the mentoring aspects of an Elmer to guide these folks along. So much is learned by observation and conversation that cannot be captured in a book or through a question pool. Quite a few folks show up at a test session out of the blue who have not had any interaction with the amateur community until that day. With the exposure that an Elmer could provide the level of unfamiliarity with our lingo, procedures or even how to evaluate a prospective radio for purchase is absent.

In eHam "elmers" some of the questions are so rudimentary that I am constantly astonished by how little folks know. We have generals and extras who are still asking technician questions.

Maybe what we are really missing is not tough tests but the role that we all should play in bringing new folks along, somewhere that process has been forgotten or our society has morphed in such a way that this is not something folks are used to doing.

Tisha, AA4HA
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Ms. Tisha Hayes, AA4HA
Lookout Mountain, Alabama
AD6KA
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Posts: 2238




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« Reply #37 on: May 05, 2010, 05:17:10 PM »

Quote
 Today's beginner usually faces a completely different situation. All licenses that are issued new offer a wide variety of bands, modes, and other options. Even the "beginner's rigs" are loaded with menus, features, options, etc.

True, but band plans and sub band freqs are easily memorized. The vast majority of beginners don't care  how a SSB signal is generated then recovered in the receiver. Key the mic is all the theory they want to know. The only really new modes for them are the digital modes. Since there is no longer any CW requirement, maybe the exams should have more questions about digital mode operations? I dunno.

All the radio's menu's, options and features are listed and explained in the manual.

How many times do we see posts like "I just bought a new Yaecomwood FTS-1200x.
Does anybody know the pinout for the ACC2 jack on the back? And how do I hook
it up to my Signalink USB?".

Or even "Just got the CAT cable for my IC-718 and downloaded HRD. Now what?".
That was a real thread started in Eham, I swear.

Obviously the answer is to READ the manual for the radio, READ the manual for
the Signalink and READ the "help file" for the software. But they don't. Is it:
1) Laziness?
2) Lack of problem solving skills?
3) Poor reading comprehension?
4) Our (Well, some people's) "instant gratification" attitude, where we can get the
answer to virtually any question instantly on the Net?
5) Aplliance Operator Syndrome?
6) All of the above?

So the new ham gets the Signalink hookup instructions from a guy on Eham, gets on PSK31,
maybe starts making QSO's. But I'l bet you *anything* if you asked him to explain
to a non-ham what the computer, interface, sound card, and radio are doing and
how they are interacting, they wouldn't be able to do it. Not even close.

"Um, well, I type a message here, and it goes through my radio, and, uh.... the other guy gets it on
his radio and sees it and clicks on the little line and answers me, Cool, huh?".

I was on the air with RTTY and AMTOR on 10m as a Tech Plus with a Commodore 64
and a Packratt PK-232 the very first day we were allowed DATA priviliges.
No instant Internet answers then. I had to slog through those manuals,
and they were thick, especially for the PK-232. I had to learn what the different
modes were all about, what Baud Rate, Baudot, Mark, Space, FEC, ASCII ARQ, SELCAL,
Phase, Idle, etc all meant.  But boy, what pride of accomplishment came with it.
And I learned a LOT.

Quote
The result is that a beginner today (and many non-beginners) often knows a little bit about a lot of things in ham radio but doesn't know a lot about anything. That's not the beginner's fault unless s/he refuses to learn. I'll help anybody I can who asks questions in good faith.

Agreed. But how do you know if the question IS in good faith and not just the same old
"AHCK! Don't give me that electronic theory, balanced-unbalanced antenna,
SWR vs. resonance junk. Just tell me how to make it work".
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AA4HA
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Posts: 1482




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« Reply #38 on: May 05, 2010, 05:31:31 PM »

"AHCK! Don't give me that electronic theory, balanced-unbalanced antenna, SWR vs. resonance junk. Just tell me how to make it work".

I caught that sort of flack from the same guy who asked an HRD question similar to the one you described. I tried to explain the fundamentals behind setting up an antenna and received a angry response from him to just give the direct answer to the question. He did not care about the other things that all revolve around his original question and sure enough, he was back asking a related question the next day.

There is a great deal of "instant gratification" and appliance operator mentality out there. We should not be surprised as the same thing happened with computing back in the early 90's and now computers are ubiquitous and no real understanding of what is going on under the hood is desired by many.

It troubles me on so many levels and I really do not know where our hobby will end up. This was not supposed to be something that did not require any effort to get into. If that is all that someone wants they should stick to a cellphone, it's radio and requires absolutely no understanding of the technology to make it work.

It is like surrendering if we just let it degenerate into the lowest common denominator for the unwashed masses. I would rather be known as a radio-geek than just someone who knows how to key a microphone.

Tisha Hayes AA4HA
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Ms. Tisha Hayes, AA4HA
Lookout Mountain, Alabama
N2EY
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Posts: 3894




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« Reply #39 on: May 05, 2010, 05:47:38 PM »

The result is that a beginner today (and many non-beginners) often knows a little bit about a lot of things in ham radio but doesn't know a lot about anything. That's not the beginner's fault unless s/he refuses to learn.

That is another disadvantage of the current state of things. There is not the mentoring aspects of an Elmer to guide these folks along. So much is learned by observation and conversation that cannot be captured in a book or through a question pool.

I disagree somewhat.

Most of what I learned to get started I got from books. Not just ARRL publications but anything I could get my hands on. There were no hams in my family, no hams in my immediate neighborhood, none in my school. In fact I didn't meet any hams in person until I was almost ready to take the license tests. And once I was licensed, I was mostly on my own.

My case was not unusual; there were lots of others like me.

The difference I refer to has to do with the fact that in the bad old days the options were fewer, so a newcomer knew what to focus on.

Quite a few folks show up at a test session out of the blue who have not had any interaction with the amateur community until that day. With the exposure that an Elmer could provide the level of unfamiliarity with our lingo, procedures or even how to evaluate a prospective radio for purchase is absent.

I think big part of the problem is that the emphasis is too much on "teaching the test" rather than learning how to do practical amateur radio. It does new hams a disservice if they have a license but not the knowledge to put it to practical use.

I think one of the problems is that for too long it has been assumed that newcomers should start out on VHF/UHF voice with manufactured gear. While that may appear "easier", it doesn't help the situation further down the road.

Look at old ham radio magazines and books from before the 1970s or so. Almost every issue has articles that seem to leap off the page and yell "BUILD THIS RADIO!" at you. I'm talking about articles telling how to build practical receivers, transmitters, and transceivers - not just accessories. Sure they were simple and nowhere near the "state of the art" - but they could be built and used to work other hams. And the builder learned a lot about radio from them.

Many of us got started that way. Kits were another route taken by many, and they weren't all QRP one-band one-mode kits, either.

You'd think that with modern technology it would be even easier, but instead we've gone the other way.

Some folks wonder what we need to do to attract more "young people". I think part of the solution is not to "talk down" by assuming young people can't do various things, such as build radios. Look at the old magazines and books I mentioned, and you'll see that their tone is that YOU can build the project, get it to work, and have a ton of fun with it.


In eHam "elmers" some of the questions are so rudimentary that I am constantly astonished by how little folks know. We have generals and extras who are still asking technician questions.

That's because they were never Novices.

Maybe what we are really missing is not tough tests but the role that we all should play in bringing new folks along, somewhere that process has been forgotten or our society has morphed in such a way that this is not something folks are used to doing.

If anything, I think there's more Elmering going on now, because of the internet.

It must be remembered, however, that in the bad old days if someone asked a rudimentary question, only a few people at most heard it. Online, it is there for all to see.

There's also the easiness factor. It's much easier for some to simply post a question on a forum than to buy/borrow/read books, do online searches, study manuals, etc.

IOW, it's the "teach a man to fish" situation.

73 de Jim, N2EY
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AA4HA
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Posts: 1482




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« Reply #40 on: May 05, 2010, 06:07:52 PM »

Jim,

Thanks for your input, your opinions are really good and I agree with you. We have lost something without the novice level as the entry point into the hobby. I too think that putting a tech on VHF/UHF repeaters to chat away locally probably has set the temper of new hams.

Nowadays the general opinion is for more VHF/UHF bandspace and to do more things in those areas while HF is looked upon as the area where your crazy old uncle would hang out on.

Tisha AA4HA
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Ms. Tisha Hayes, AA4HA
Lookout Mountain, Alabama
K4DPK
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Posts: 1077


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« Reply #41 on: May 05, 2010, 09:04:06 PM »

Should literacy be a requirement?

ABSOLUTELY !!!!!

Phil C. Sr.
k4dpk
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N2EY
Member

Posts: 3894




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« Reply #42 on: May 06, 2010, 07:53:00 PM »

Quote
 Today's beginner usually faces a completely different situation. All licenses that are issued new offer a wide variety of bands, modes, and other options. Even the "beginner's rigs" are loaded with menus, features, options, etc.

True, but band plans and sub band freqs are easily memorized. The vast majority of beginners don't care  how a SSB signal is generated then recovered in the receiver. Key the mic is all the theory they want to know.

I don't know if that's really true. Sure, you see a lot of that sort of thing on-line, but is it really true of the vast majority of beginners? Or is it that the ones who really want to know the theory don't ask so many questions, because they're busy figuring it out on their own?

IOW, for every newcomer who asks how a G5RV works, there may be 10 or 100 who simply google it, read the various articles, and figure it out for themselves. We'll never know about those folks because they don't need to ask.

All the radio's menu's, options and features are listed and explained in the manual.

How many times do we see posts like "I just bought a new Yaecomwood FTS-1200x.
Does anybody know the pinout for the ACC2 jack on the back? And how do I hook
it up to my Signalink USB?".

Or even "Just got the CAT cable for my IC-718 and downloaded HRD. Now what?".
That was a real thread started in Eham, I swear.

Obviously the answer is to READ the manual for the radio, READ the manual for
the Signalink and READ the "help file" for the software. But they don't. Is it:
1) Laziness?
2) Lack of problem solving skills?
3) Poor reading comprehension?
4) Our (Well, some people's) "instant gratification" attitude, where we can get the
answer to virtually any question instantly on the Net?
5) Aplliance Operator Syndrome?
6) All of the above?

Probably 6). But I wouldn't tar all newcomers with a brush that really applies to only a few.

And that sort of thing is nothing new. It's just more visible because we have the internet.

But how do you know if the question IS in good faith and not just the same old
"AHCK! Don't give me that electronic theory, balanced-unbalanced antenna,
SWR vs. resonance junk. Just tell me how to make it work".

It's not always easy to tell if a question is in good faith. But when you get an "AHCK!" answer, you know not to bother trying to help that particular person.

Often you can tell if a question is in good faith with just a short reply that tries to clarify the exact info the person wants. How the person responds tells you - and others -  a lot.

The eham IGNORE button is so wonderful....

73 de Jim, N2EY
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K5END
Member

Posts: 1309




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« Reply #43 on: May 07, 2010, 12:13:28 PM »


Note: "Muphry's Law" is not a typo

73 de Jim, N2EY


Good one, Jim. Thanks fore the laugh.
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K6LHA
Member

Posts: 349




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« Reply #44 on: May 07, 2010, 01:16:08 PM »

Jim,

Thanks for your input, your opinions are really good and I agree with you. We have lost something without the novice level as the entry point into the hobby. I too think that putting a tech on VHF/UHF repeaters to chat away locally probably has set the temper of new hams.

Nowadays the general opinion is for more VHF/UHF bandspace and to do more things in those areas while HF is looked upon as the area where your crazy old uncle would hang out on.

Tisha AA4HA

Okay, your opinion seems to indicate you want HF as the Elitist Club playground
of those who consider themselves better than others.  <shrug>

Try considering that "new hams" might not want to continue pioneering the airwaves as in olden times nor in engaging in "radiosport" contesting.  Times have changed and "new hams" don't all have the same desires as the conditioned thinking of long-time-licensed radio amateurs.  What you are saying in that quote is to continue keeping the "new hams" in the ghetto above 30 MHz and let them fend for themselves.  That isn't brotherly or sisterly, just an elitist attitude.

What you've also said is that these "new hams" should grab their own bandspace
and try to increase it by themselves.  Times have changed at the FCC and the rest of the radio world.  The "VHF-UHF" bandspace is highly desired by other radio services who are pressuring the FCC for their piece of the spectrum pie up there.  The ARRL is practically useless as the Big Brother to get more ham band space and they still lump nearly half the USA amateur radio licensees as those that inhabit the "World above 30 MHz," (as if that was useless to right-thinking hams).

Perhaps this upsets a lot of readers, but the topic started off with an attention-getting subject of someone who couldn't recognize an obvious troll done by someone else trying poorly to imitate dyslexia symptoms.  Now it has veered off into the usual elitist attitudes of too many old-timers.

73, Len K6LHA
retired (from regular hours) electronics design engineer
first-ever amateur radio license grantee on 7 Mar 07 (Amateur Extra class)
First Class Radiotelephone (Commercial) licensee granted March 1956
Professional in HF communications since 1953
Two years older than the FCC
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