●▬ ▬ ●●●▬ ▬ ▬●●●
Get Your Pools Right!
report delivered to the
National Conference of Volunteer-Examiner Coordinators
Good morning, volunteer-examiner coordinators. Welcome
to Gettysburg and your VEC Conference. Keeping with the long-ago established protocol for an address delivered on these hallowed
grounds, only this morning during the journey from Washington was this humble report jotted down on the back of an envelope.
Threescore and 15 years ago
our fathers brought forth to this continent a new Communication Act; conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition
that our American public would benefit from the regulation of interstate and foreign communications transmitted by wire or
radio. Included in that law were provisions for some very uniquely-qualified people: duly authorized persons
interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest.
Their purpose was to empower these amateur operators to carry
out self-training, intercommunication and technical investigations. The FCC was created therewith and directed to prescribe
the qualifications of radio operators, classifying them according to the duties to be performed, fixing the forms of such
licenses, and issuing them to persons found to be qualified.
The FCC thereupon codified those directives into its rules: To become duly authorized,
a license grant must be requested and the person must pass an examination sufficient to prove possession of the operational
and technical qualifications necessary to perform properly the duties of an amateur operator.
After a half-century of preparing and administering
those examinations, the FCC was further authorized to accept the voluntary and uncompensated services
of amateur operators to carry out these tasks. It was directed, moreover, to prescribe rules for selecting, overseeing, sanctioning
and dismissing any person so accepted.
Now we are engaged in our great volunteer examiner system, testing
whether our system - or any system so conceived and so dedicated - can long endure. We are assembled here to confer with the
FCC and to plan for the future. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
We must remember that our VEs have their unique
tasks to carry out: they must prepare each question on each pool; they must prepare each question set according to instructions
from their volunteer-examiner coordinator or obtain them from a supplier; they must administer the examinations; they must
determine the correctness of the examinee’s answers. They try hard and they do a superb job.
We must also remember that you VECs also have your FCC-assigned coordination
tasks to carry. You must seek a broad representation of amateur operators to be VEs. You must
determine that the volunteer is competent to perform the VE functions. You must determine that no questions of the person’s
integrity or honesty could compromise the examinations. You must not discriminate in accrediting VEs on the basis of race,
sex, religion or national origin; nor on the basis of membership in an amateur service organization nor on the basis of the
person accepting or declining to accept reimbursement.
All fourteen VECs, additionally, must cooperate in maintaining one question
pool for each examination element, giving assurance that there is uniformity in the questions being asked regardless
of where they are administered.
With these responsibilities freshly in mind, here are my recommendations:
Make public your VEC instructions
to VE Teams. Disclose to all volunteers your conditions for VE accreditation so that they can make an informed
choice when selecting the VEC to coordinate their work. Document your policies such that all VEs know what they are.
Repudiate your call
to make “… the amateur service accessible to as many citizens as possible.” Part 95
provides citizens and non-citizens alike with access to HF CB, VHF Multi-Use, and UHF Family and General Mobile Personal Radio
Services. No examination is required. The license grant is usually by rule. They are domestic radio services; they are not
recognized nor is spectrum allocated internationally. Experimentation is not allowed. Equipment type certification is
Our rules Part 97, on the
other hand, in addition to the Communications Act and the international Radio Regulations, say that our amateur service is
for those aforementioned uniquely-qualified amateur operators. Equipment type certification is not required. Experimentation,
rather, is expected and encouraged.
Do not blur the distinction between personal and amateur radio. Stand against the trivialization of our amateur service. Enable
our VEs to fulfill their duties so as to allow our amateur community to achieve and uphold a reputation of high standards
of legitimacy in being beneficial to the American public.
Adopt a set of VEC instructions to your Question Pool Committee.
You have created your QPC
to carry out your obligation. Very few VECS, however, have ever participated on your committee. Become involved! Cooperate,
at least, by joining with the other VECs in developing a set of instructions for your committee to follow. Because your QPC
members are subject to change every year, a set of agreed-to instructions can help assure continuity and demonstrate permanence
in that your considered policy is directing your question pool-maintaining process.
A noteworthy commerce has evolved for providing examination preparation services.
Its practitioners, their employees and associates depend upon your question pools. It is their lifeblood. Your obligation,
nevertheless, is to maintain question pools for our VEs.
Frequent scheduled revisions obviously benefit exam preparation services commerce, but the constant
churning of the questions disadvantages the examinees, VEs and instructors. It obsoletes and disrupts unreasonably their administration
and training materials and curricula. Do not tolerate your pools being revised unnecessarily. Only revamp a pool when
it needs updating because of rule amendments or evolving good amateur and engineering practices.
You are exceptionally fortunate to have Rol Anders as your Question Pool
Committee Chair. In the Baltimore area, he is our most respected amateur radio teacher and expert. He loves to teach.
He is independent of any examination preparation service commerce. Do not let him get away.
Comply fully with the FCC element standards.
First and foremost, a working knowledge of the pertinent FCC rules is fundamental to operating an amateur station properly.
Also required is an understanding of our good amateur and good engineering practices, along with a grasp of the related technical
rudiments sufficient to make those rules and practices meaningful. Keep on track! You have no rightful excuse to shape the
pools to manipulate licensing trends or to facilitate commerce.
Do not compromise any question just to satisfy the constraints of the
multiple-choice format. Enable our VEs to prepare, administer and grade in the format of their choice.
Although it is probably the most widely administered type, that lowly-regarded multiple-choice answer format is not an FCC
rule requirement. Unless you condition your accreditation upon the volunteer’s consent to administer only multiple-choice
examinations, it is not obligatory.
Heretofore, the FCC staff examiners also employed a somewhat similar no-knowledge-to-grade multiple-choice format. Holding
an amateur operator license grant, however, was not in their position descriptions. The questions and answers, moreover, were
not disclosed beforehand. Our VE system cannot lay claim to any similar justification. Every VE must have passed not
only the examination element that he or she is preparing or administering but also the next higher element, where there is
one. Your multiple-choice format, with the exact questions and answers publicized beforehand encourages quickie short-term
memorization rather than beneficial learning for the long haul.
The very first statement codified in Part 97, for example, is the basis and purpose for the rules in
locations where the FCC regulates the amateur radio service. Any person seeking a license should be aware of the FCC’s
expectations on how he or she is to make use of the privileges conferred thereby. Your multiple-choice format question and
answer character constraints, however, will not accommodate that satisfactorily. A straightforward question such as, “What
is the FCC’s basis and purpose for its amateur service rules?” is not answerable fully under your character constraints.
The question-preparing VE, therefore,
must dumb-down the question to fit your 210-character constraint. One shortcut is to state briefly the knowledge an amateur
operator needs to know and then simply asking the examinee to identify its source; maybe something like this:
T1A01 (97.1)(a) Voluntary noncommercial communications, technology, skills, operators,
technicians, electronics experts, international goodwill are the objectives for the amateur service of which authority?
It looks like it addresses the basis and purpose of the rules. But it
falls short of being the expertise a person qualified for an FCC license must possess. That knowledge has been subjugated
to the constraints of your chosen format.
Don’t take our spectrum for granted.
We are all concerned about reports of spectrum demands for Internet services. The BPL may be only the opening shot.
Congress now knows of the billions that can be raised through auctions. Let’s try our very best to retain our spectrum
for those genuine uniquely-qualified amateur operators. If your question pools are not correct, our VEs’
efforts are meaningless. Get your pools right.
The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what we do here. It is for us
to be dedicated to the great task remaining before us: that every person in America for whom our spectrum is allocated
goes on to qualify fully for an amateur operator license and utilizes it forever after in doing that for which it has been
And our amateur
radio services shall not perish from the earth.
Have a great conference and thank you.
John B. Johnston W3BE
July 24, 2009