Monday, May 7, 2012

Despite the fact that "incentive licensing" is such a failed idea,  we still have far too many in our ranks who share an "I've got mine so who cares?" attitude among those who fervently believe that sweeping changes to the system are sorely needed.

Unfortunately, that "fire in the belly" simply isn't there for enough people to make enough noise to their Congressional representatives and others who DO have the power to actually change things so that the next person seeking full access to our Service won't have to also jump through those same, baseless hoops.

That is, simply saying "let's get on with our lives" can't (and won't) change a thing!

And, unfortunately, it's THAT attitude among the REST of us in the hobby who see all that "incentive" nonsense for what it is...but who also remain unwilling to actually make enough noise to do anything about it that's now killing the hobby.

That's because more and more of those potential newcomers (mostly youngsters who are the future of the hobby) are now making a conscious choice not to join us as a result of all the increasingly meaningless (to them) 1950s-era "hazing rituals" they still have to jump through in order to be fully licensed in our Service.

I would also say that most of our so-called "growth" statistics that the ARRL and others keep trotting out to assure us that "all is well" in our Service consist largely of aging "boomers"...people who, for one reason or another (work, family, etc.) either were Hams at one time and let their licenses lapse, or who "always wanted to be a Ham" but things like the increasingly baseless Morse testing requirements kept them out.

As I've said in previous posts, I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of "under twenty somethings" I've administered an exam to in the last five years.  And, believe me, since the early 1990s, I've administered a LOT of exams to a LOT of people...on both sides of the US/Canadian border!  However, even if you aren't a VE, all you have to do these days is to simply look around at the graying, thinning, and/or balding heads (not to mention the ever-expanding waistlines!) at ham radio gatherings to see where our hobby is currently headed.

The bottom line here is that our Service simply isn't attracting enough youngsters to keep pace with the number of us oldsters who are now dying in ever-increasing numbers...and it's THAT clearly obvious trend that will eventually prove to be our downfall if it isn't reversed in a big hurry.

I would also say that there's been a fundamental sea change in what motivates people in our society.... particularly younger people.... to become members of a closed, secret "fraternity".

When I was growing up...which was about the same time our FCC hatched heir stupid "incentive" nonsense for our Service...there were any number of formal, "exclusive" organizations one could join....DeMolay, Rainbow Girls, Eastern Star, Masons, Knights of Columbus, Eagles, Elks, Odd Fellows...and Amateur Radio.....in order to have one's ego's stroked.

We were a nation of joiners back then.

However, the days when exclusivity alone was a motivator for people to do whatever it took to become a member and then advance within the "secret club" are now also long gone as well.  This may help explain why most of those organizations are now aging and "dying|', perhaps right along with Amateur Radio itself.

We, as a culture, simply don't satisfy our "belongingness" needs that way any more.

But, what about the fact that the number of US Hams is at an all time high, you say?

What these myopic arguments (that are often trotted out by the "all is well" crowd)  fail to take into account is that population of the USA is at an all time high as well.  And, as I've said, nobody seems to want to talk seriously about the advancing age of the proponents of our hobby.

It is a fact that our average age continues to get older.  More and more of us are dying off, and more of the younger set are rejecting the FCC's failed "incentive" nonsense in favor of more readily available ways to communicate (like cell phones and the Internet).  And unless that trend quickly changes, the proponents of OUR hobby will continue age and die, despite the fact that the number of people holding valid ham licenses in the United States today is still far larger than it was in the 1950s.

What's more, even after almost 50 years of these so-called "incentives", I find it absolutely fascinating that the vast majority (almost half!) of those persons licensed in our Service in the United States still only hold a Technician license.  When "grandfathered" Novices are tossed into the mix, that number rises to well over half of all US hams!

If that fact alone isn't a stinging indictment of "incentive licensing", I don't know what is!

It is now painfully apparent that all those "incentives" have since proven to be nothing more than "unnecessary regulatory barriers" (to use the legal term for such regulatory malfeasance)..all of which were clearly designed to keep ordinary people out of the mainstream of our Service

As a result, planning for our future has now become an exercise much like "rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic".  Such plans are all predicated on a growing and vibrant Amateur Service.  But, as I have said, right now, we aren't even holding our own in the "staying meaningful and viable" department largely because we have yet to figure out a way to attract (and keep) youthful newcomers.

The other bottom line here is that, in order to further "educate" people, you FIRST have to motivate them enough to walk through the door of your "schoolhouse".

Right now, that isn't happening because our failed, 1950s-era, so called "incentive" licensing requirements have since become a huge turn-off to younger people.  Indeed, for decades now, we have been turning our potential youthful newcomers "off" (and/or away) in droves....long before we've gotten the chance to even begin sharing the wealth of "hands on" knowledge that's present in our hobby with them.

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