Saturday, August 25, 2012

Over and over again in many ham radio-related online forums, I read comments from our (thankfully!) ever-shrinking cadre of "regulatory fundamentalists" about how distressing it is that people are being licensed these days but are apparently not being prepared in any way to get started as amateurs.

They lament that, the "training" these days is all designed just to create new hams without any new skills.  They then launch into a diatribe that ham radio has now become so "diluted" (that is, "easy" for newcomers to get a license) that such people then are unable to progress to the point of getting their stations on the air for "lack of knowledge".

To all of which, I say HORSEPUCKY!

First of all, it appears these crusty curmudgeons are STILL myopically equating a "license" as a kind of "diploma" that those who hold such documents instantly become "fully qualified" hams once they pass their exams.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  To the contrary, I've always viewed my ham radio license as  a "license to learn" and that my real learning came from my time on the air and from tinkering with my equipment and antennas.

What;'s more, I've always believed that it's OUR collective responsibility (vice some stupid government agency's) to "train" our newcomers.   Years ago, that activity was called "Elmering"...ham-speak for "mentoring". 

Unfortunately, I've found there's precious little "Elmering" going on in our Service these days. To the contrary, many of our old timers seem to be going out of their way to make our newcomers (particularly the youthful ones) feel absolutely unwelcome in our Service.

Speaking as a long time amateur radio instructor and accredited examiner (on both sides of the US/Canadian border) it's been my personal experience that newcomers are far more responsive to "mentoring" than they are to "training".  And "mentoring" is something that is best accomplished when each of us feels a personal responsibility to work one-on-one with one or more newcomers rather than relying on some increasingly arcane government licensing structure to do it.

The bottom line here is that, rather than sitting on the sidelines and "harrumphing" about how "untrained" our newcomers are, perhaps its time some of these curmudgeons got up off  their ever-expanding finals and actually became an "Elmer" to a newcomer (or two) in much the same manner that many of us were "Elmered" when we were first starting out.