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  1. #1
    Senior Member Dalmatian90's Avatar
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    Default Western States Revisited...

    (Warning...an even long post by my standards!)

    Details, gentlemen, details.

    The devil is in the details.

    The threads regarding Western States University have been gnawing at me for a couple weeks now. The more it gnawed, the more it started to come together with other threads and themes of the Firehouse forums as of late.

    If you'll indulge me for a few minutes, it reminded me of the story of Icarus, and it's worth pasting in the fable here,

    Daedalus built the labyrinth for King Minus, but afterwards lost the favor of the king, and was shut up in a tower. He contrived to make his escape from his prison, but could not leave the island by sea, as the king kept strict watch on all the vessels, and permitted none to sail without being carefully searched. "Minos may control the land and sea," said Daedalus, "but not the regions of the air. I will try that way." So he set to work to fabricate wings for himself and his young son Icarus. He wrought feathers together, beginning with the smallest and adding larger, so as to form an increasing surface. The larger ones he secured with thread and the smaller with wax, and gave the whole a gentle curvature like the wings of a bird. Icarus, the boy, stood and looked on, sometimes running to gather up the feathers which the wind had blown away, and then handling the wax and working it over with his fingers, by his play impeding his father in his labors. When at last the work was done, the artist, waving his wings, found himself buoyed upward, and hung suspended, poising himself on the beaten air. He next equipped his son in the same manner and taught him how to fly, as a bird tempts her young ones from the lofty nest into the air. When all was prepared for flight he said, "Icarus, my son, I charge you to keep at a moderate height, for if you fly too low the damp will clog your wings, and if too high the heat will melt them. Keep near me and you will be safe." While he gave him these instructions and fitted the wings to his shoulders, the face of the father was wet with tears, and his hands trembled. He kissed the boy, not knowing that it was for the last time. Then rising on his wings, he flew off, encouraging him to follow, and looked back from his own flight to see how his son managed his wings. As they flew the ploughman stopped his work to gaze, aid the shepherd leaned on his staff and watched them, astonished at the sight, and thinking they were gods who could thus cleave the air.

    They passed Samos and Delos on the left and Lebynthos on the right, when the boy, exulting in his career, began to leave the guidance of his companion and soar upward as if to reach heaven. The nearness of the blazing sun softened the wax which held the feathers together, and they came off. He fluttered with his arms, but no feathers remained to hold the air. While his mouth uttered cries to his father it was submerged in the blue waters of the sea which thenceforth was called by his name. His father cried, "Icarus, Icarus, where are you?" At last he saw the feathers floating on the water, and bitterly lamenting his own arts, he buried the body and called the land Icaria in memory of his child. Daedalus arrived safe in Sicily, where he built a temple to Apollo, and hung up his wings, an offering to the god.


    Goodness many of you are probably wondering what brought Matt to post the story of Icarus here.

    Daedalus found himself in a problem. And he looked for a solution. Indeed, he found a very creative solution – one that worked well. It allowed him to escape from the island of his imprisonment.

    Icarus didn't follow his father's instructions. He got caught up in the excitement of flight – and then his wings broke apart under the heat of the sun. Reminds me very much of Lairdsville, or any one of the other past training tragedies. What fire does is predictable – as predictable as the Sun's heat was to Daedalus. When we don't respect it, when we forget the advice of those who think about this stuff (such as the NFPA), we get burned.

    It doesn't mean we never try new things – three hundred years of tradition unimpeded by progress is not as true as it seems sometimes. Daedalus would never have left the island if he hadn't tried radical solutions for old problems – where others would've kept trying to sneak off the island by sea, he figured a new and better way. But we have to proceed with care and think about what we're doing. And when we're not quite sure about something, we seek out advice from people like Engineers who have very specific skill sets.

    In engineering, there is a set of letters to after a name and title called P.E. that only some engineers earn – the title of Professional Engineer and ability and responsibility that goes with it to certify that a design is correct, that at the end of the day people won't be killed by a design failure. P.E. was developed to let the public know who had the education, experience, and ability to be trusted.

    Now Icarus wasn't killed merely by exuberance. Hubris – an exaggerated pride or in this case self-confidence, played a big role. How many firefighters, line officers, and chiefs have we seen over the years who felt they could do anything because they were firemen?

    Hubris isn't just a problem in the fire service. Enron collapsed not from financial misdeeds – they collapsed from hubris. It was the hubris of their executives that they could get away with fast and loose business practices that created that financial bubble in the first place. It takes the diligence of investors and lenders to keep such practices in check, but it also takes professionals like Accountants to audit them properly.

    Now, accountants rely on a set of principles called GAAP – Generally Accepted Accounting Practices – to guide them. It's one of the core standards of that industry. It's not unlike the NFPA standards to the fire service. Lawyers have tomes of standards called Statutes and Decisions and innumerable other terms.

    Titles are important; standards are important. With a title, we expect persons to have a certain competency in a certain area of knowledge. A Certified Public Accountant has passed exams to prove their proficiency in accounting standards. A Lawyer goes before the Bar Exam.

    In the fire service, a Firefighter I candidate can be tested to the standard of NFPA 1001.

    I could personally go out tomorrow and test someone and give them a piece of paper that says they are a Firefighter I to the NFPA 1001 standard. Give them a nice computer printed certificate, have a nice day. Not surprisingly, most states won't accept it. I could have given them a good exam, I might not have. Even at the state level, there's fifty states out there – how does one state know another provides the same minimum standards? Well, there is an accreditation process. In fact, two generally recognized for the fire service – National Board on Fire Service Professional Qualifications and the International Fire Service Accreditation Congress. I'm fortunate to live in a state where both are recognized, and I could get my Firefighter II, Fire Service Instructor I, and Fire Officer I state certificates accredited by both. In Indiana, a member of IFSAC, they would know my FSI-I was equivalent to theirs, and in Utah, a member of NBFSPQ, they would know that too. Without either Indiana or Utah having to look for themselves at Connecticut's programs.

    In this world, we have to balance trust with watching. We have to watch our personal financial papers closely. Sometimes we look at the titles some has to watch after our interests – kinda like wanting a Firefighter I certificate for interior firefighters. Or as some places do, look for a certain level and nature of college education. We may not know someone personally, we may not have the time to evaluate them as an individual, but we know they've met some minimum standard.

    Some people like titles for legitimate pride – had a teacher in High School who had a PhD (from UConn) and wanted to be called Dr. Smith, he was dang proud of that sheepskin. Some people like titles to massage their egos – look at me, I'm a PhD. Some people like titles to scam – hmmm, says Masters Degree, doesn't say from an accredited school.

    Yes, colleges are accredited just like state training programs are so someone with no personal knowledge can trust that certain minimum standards are being met. Stealing a note from the accountancy play book, colleges are accredited to Generally Accepted Accreditation Practices
    (http://www.degree.net/guides/non-gaap_listings.html) by one of several regional and international groups and even one national one for distance learning.

    There is even accreditation groups that don't follow GAAP. That's kinda like me going out and saying, you know what, I don't like NFPA 1001, I'll make my own standard for Firefighter I, and I'll even create my own accrediting agency to say I comply with DAL1001. My efforts may be sincere, heck, they might even outdo NFPA and be better. But it's not to a standard that's been developed over the years and subject to a review process that's generally accepted.

    Someone reviewing an application might find Oscar Dalmatian, Firefighter I and put them on the short list. Maybe even ahead of other Firefighter Is. Maybe in hiring you'd get down to the nitty gritty details of who and to what standard you were certified. Maybe not. I'd guarantee you at most meetings you could walk in and present yourself as a Firefighter I or even a PhD and most people would never know how you came to hold those titles, they'd trust they were to a generally accepted standard.

    Standards exist to help us – we all can't know everything. We can look to standards though, and expect people to meet generally accepted standards, and expect certification and degree titles to meet certain generally accepted standards.

    Sorry, but I've got to put creating a doctoral degree to cover your life experiences at best in the column of hubris – and with some individuals, in the column of fraud. I respect Harry Carter's opinions a lot, and frankly until this issue blew up in the forums, I didn't know about this issue. Like most people, I see PhD and think of accredited schools.

    I wouldn't be myself if I didn't take a good look at numbers – Western States University has issued according to Harry less than 1,000 doctoral degrees in 24 years. I'd assume close to 1,000 by the phrasing – so that's about forty a year. That puts Western States University in the same class, by number of doctoral degrees, as Ball State, Boston College, Drexel, Fordham, Loyola of Chicago, Northern Arizona, and Old Dominion (http://www.ruf.rice.edu/~pomeran/scs...stitutions.htm) . Diploma mill? Maybe not. Not standard? Yep.

    Things aren't always what they seem. It's good to take a look at things, but you don't always have time – most pump operators glance and see 150psi on the discharge, their happy. Most people see PhD and assume it meets national standards. Follow that 150psi out through the hose though, and you might find it wedged under a door with no water flowing. Accreditation gives you some basic assurance that there isn't a door wedged somewhere making the PhD seem more impressive than it is.

    Maybe the non-accredited degree is good. Maybe it's bad. We harp on national standards like OSHA and NFPA in other areas. They may not be perfect, but they are consistent. Accreditation for a college degrees may not be perfect, but it's consistent.

    Some people vary from NFPA by necessity. Some because they have thought of what is best for their area. Some are like Daedalus, forging new territory NFPA hasn't seen yet. Some are like Icarus, a little knowledge and a lot of hubris is a bad combination. Some for their own personal ambition – if I only skimp here, I can look so good to Hizonner. I suppose non-accredited degrees are the same -- some forge new territory, though you'd think after 20 years, national accreditation could be achieved. Some get them to satisfy their own hubris and have fancy letters after their own name. A some for their own personal gain – if only I had those letters, I get a raise. At least with standards, with accreditation you are assured of consistency – with non accredited degrees, you don't know what is behind them.


    Matt


  2. #2
    Forum Member DeputyChiefGonzo's Avatar
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    Thumbs up

    Dalmatian 90

    Excellent post and food for thought!
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
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    Excellent post Dal. Cutting through that to the heart of the matter - People who did not need the credentials bought them. In most other instances they would be removed or have the decency to step aside. Not so with these people. They have much left to do in misleading the fire service.
    Last edited by JayTL; 03-29-2002 at 06:54 AM.

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    Forum Member MIKEYLIKESIT's Avatar
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    I know alot of firefighters who got B.S. degrees from The School Of Hard Knocks. Guess what? I would crawl down that hallway with most of them long before I would trust MOST of the experts that are running around out there. We all know those leaders in the fire service who are visionary and can back it up with experience, and leadership. There are way too many "experts" these days..You know the one ..100 miles from home armed with a power point presentation. Firefighters are generally smart people. There is alot to learn,retain and relearn. BUT IT AINT BRAIN SURGERY. When flames are lickin at your posterior, that degree dosent do squat for you.

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    Thumbs up Geez Matt!

    Well worth the read!
    My posts reflect my views and opinions, not the organization I work for or my IAFF local. Some of which they may not agree. I.A.C.O.J. member
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    MembersZone Subscriber ChiefReason's Avatar
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    If there are no objections, from this time forward I will be referred to as Ultimate Supreme All Knowing And Superior Highest Intellect Ta-da! It will appear behind my name as "Usaka****". Has a nice ring to it, don't you think? Chief Reason, Usaka****!
    Dalmation90; you are wise beyond your years. Your post is the most articulate and thought-inspiring to date on this highly controversial subject. As I have read every post concerning diploma mills and the like, I couldn't help but think about the quality of what we receive in the form of information, whether it be a magazine article, an instruction manual or the guy "teaching" your class. I was never too concerned about what was behind his name, so long as he could show me something new or at least challenge me to find out for myself.
    We live in a society where appearance is everything! People altering their physical appearance because outer beauty is more important and profitable than inner beauty; murderers getting off because it appeared as though the gloves didn't fit; Irish coaches resigning because it appeared that they embellished their resumes; Catholic priests resigning for appearing with young boys. Anyway, you get the picture. People feel that putting little letters behind their names gives the appearance that they are smarter, more qualified and therefore, above question when they speak. You see, all of this crap has made alot of us very cynical. Don't accept it on appearance alone! Make sure of the source of your information, because in today's world, having a credible source of information could win the day. Courtrooms rely an awful lot on those little letters behind your name, because they determine if it is "expert" testimony. They will challenge your credentials; they have to.
    I find it ridiculous that a person who has come by their degree the old fashion way would be the least bit offended if you asked "pardon me for asking, but where did you get your degree?" And leave it there.
    One of the smartest men I ever had the pleasure of knowing and who taught me some of life's toughest lessons dropped out of school after the eighth grade(Great Depression necessitated it). He was respected, not for the letters behind his name or in his case, a lack of letters, but for his knowledge, his willingness to share it and his humble character. Company presidents came to him for advice. He could read a thick book in an evening and do complex math problems in his head. He served in both theatres of WWII and raised eight children on $100 a week. You had to be a genius just to do that! He was my dad. He was a doctor emeritus from the school of hard knocks.
    Now, based on what I have read in some of these posts, I should have stopped listening to him once I entered my freshman year of high school. After all, I had to be smarter than him because I was in the nineth grade and he only made it to the eighth grade! Thinking like that would get me an appointment with the perfesser after work. He talked; I listened. He taught; I learned-right up until the day he died.
    We work in a life and death occupation, where firefighters must be trusting of the guy next to them. There must also be mutual respect. The veterans must teach the probies and the probies must trust that what they are hearing is credible. If not, there will be more death than life. Those in the business of teaching the teachers had better bring more than a resume to the table. If not, they will be easily offended and never to be heard from again.
    Doc was one of the Seven Dwarfs, but I strongly doubt that he was a real doctor. Doc Holliday was a dentist who was also pretty good with a gun AND a deck of cards. The others? Well, I guess time will tell where their place will be in the larger scheme of things.
    I guess that when the dust settles, there will be those who dispense information that will have a positive impact on our profession. There will be others that won't help us a whole lot, but won't hurt us, either. Then there are the ones who will hurt us; not just physically, but mentally, because we trusted them. And when that happens, the letters behind their name will read "criminal".
    My advice: read what is written, but don't automatically accept it as "truth".
    Now, I am going to sign off, using my new moniker.
    Stay safe.
    Chief Reason, Usaka****

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    The first ever post by Chief Reason that I have enjoyed

    All joking aside he brings up valid points. I too know a guy with an eight grade education who is rough around the edges but in short bursts can make as much sense as anyone. Good Job Reason.

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    District Chief distchief60b's Avatar
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    Dalmation...great post
    Chief Reason...Usaka... Bravo!
    Mikelikesit....I am with you all the way on that one.

    I too have the pleasure of knowing a man who has done well...and is well respected...and the letters do not follow his name.

    I am not defending the uneducated......just wonder what all the fuss is about!
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
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    Senior Member DFDRev's Avatar
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    Talking It makes sense to me!

    Originally posted by Chief Reason
    Courtrooms rely an awful lot on those little letters behind your name, because they determine if it is "expert" testimony. They will challenge your credentials; they have to.
    Do you know the real meaning of the word expert? Let me put my honorary English professorship (from Dal State University) to use in this forum...

    This is a compound word formed by two other words (in the original Latin text)
    EX = a has-been
    SPERT = drip under pressure

    No homework for the weekend - have a Blessed Easter!
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    Forum Member PAVolunteer's Avatar
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    Question:

    Who is more of a Doctor?

    (A)Someone who purchases the letters after having 30 years of practical firefighting experience, which includes hundreds of hours of classes, thousands of hours on the fireground, and hundreds of pages of documentary writing?

    or

    (B)Someone who "earns" the letters by sitting in a classroom for eight years?

    Another question:

    If you throw a book at a ...

    Stay Safe

    Yours truly,

    PA Volunteer, MD, PHD, CPA, ESQ, CFP, BMW, FF, SAT

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    Forum Member DaFAO's Avatar
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    Talking since were giving out titles...

    I nominate myself to be the Boss In General of Special High Intensity Training....BIG SH....

  12. #12
    MembersZone Subscriber ChiefReason's Avatar
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    boxalarm:
    I stand before you a humble man.
    It would seem that the measure of my skills will come with time. We fight the daily battles with as much competence as we can muster, all the while building a foundation for the next generation of leaders. To me, that is the variable. Sometimes, we spend too much time fighting the dailies and the long range planning kinda suffers. You go on hoping that a positive impact from what you do will be felt after you leave the department, that what you did made sense, had value, etc. Those kind of thoughts never entered my mind when I entered the fire service over 20 years ago. It's only now as I come to the end of my second career that I wonder if I did all that I could to leave the department a little better than I found it. Many of the things that we have accomplished are very visible. But the one and I mean the only one that matters to me is if my guys are better, can teach the next group and our department continues to be the best that they can be. If I can take some satisfaction along with a little credit, then I am a happy guy. To some, that may even sound a little selfish. It does to me, but anyone who has ever been there will understand.
    I got into the fire service because of my father. I had been somewhat of a disappointment to him growing up and I wanted to prove to him that I could do something to make him proud, so I got on a fire department. It worked. And now you know the rest of the story(my "chief reason" for becoming a firefighter).
    We must be careful with the young ones coming up. If, at times, we don't give them the benefit of the doubt and constantly and relentlessly challenge them, a few will tough it out, but the majority will look at it as not worth the price of leadership. If they cannot see the merits of what they do and rationalize it in their minds as necessary to the process, then no one will aspire to be our future leaders.
    Self-importance can be just as detrimental to a department as a lack of the desire to train and to learn. It has to make sense and if you don't respect the textbook or the instructor, you just ****ed away a day that could have been better spent at the zoo.
    We need to get back to the basics and push those two little words that have always driven us to and from the scene: HONOR and BRAVERY. Get back to our core values and the future of our nation's fire service will be placed into good hands.
    I realize that I took the scenic route with this post, but it's important that we don't rush to judgment. It's like when I was growing up, Dad hunted to put food on the table. Today, it is more for the sport; you know, the thrill of the kill! That's how we are sometimes when we believe that there exists a fraud, that someone who we trusted may have lied to us and we are not going to give up the hunt until we have "killed" that person's credibility and reputation. But if we must do it, do it for the right reasons and not for the sport of it.
    And I'm spent!
    God Bless America and our Nation's Fire Service
    Last edited by ChiefReason; 03-29-2002 at 02:42 PM.

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    Chief Reason

    A wonderful post. In it you focus in very accurate terms what it is that makes firefighters important. Thank you for sharing that message brother.

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    Who is more of a Doctor?
    (A)Someone who purchases the letters after having 30 years of practical firefighting experience, which includes hundreds of hours of classes, thousands of hours on the fireground, and hundreds of pages of documentary writing?
    (B)Someone who "earns" the letters by sitting in a classroom for eight years?
    The fact is that the title is earned in the classroom. To excuse someone for "purchasing" credibility, when they don't need to, after 30 years, lots of action, and tons of classes is absurd.

    Is it not enough that the person HAS the knowledge from many years on the line? Would we respect anyone less because he has attended thousands of seminars? No because we respect that. However, when they choose to align themsleves with those who have earned a degree should they not be held to the same standards?

    In my case the person I respect is the veteran on the line who does not need titles to augment his own sense of self importance but allows his career to speak for itself. Some of those great veterans spent countless nights at school earning degrees through hard work. Yet those that take the shortcuts are deemed their peers or better. Absurd.

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    Dalmation90

    Excellent post sir.

    Chief Reason

    Thanks also to you for the excellent posts.

    It is men such as yourselves that take the time to share their knowledge and wisdom that make a difference in this world. You both have my utmost respect and admiration.

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    We need to get back to the basics and push those two little words that have always driven us to and from the scene: HONOR and BRAVERY. Get back to our core values and the future of our nation's fire service will be placed into good hands.

    Chief Reason; This may be the key point of your post and may be the exact reason why knowledge that is gained from non-traditional means in the streets and in the trenches and in the kitchens of this nations firehouses may be as important and more relevant to the fire service than sitting in a classroom. That is the precise reason why people need to be bale to quantify that non-traditional learning.

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    This may be the key point of your post and may be the exact reason why knowledge that is gained from non-traditional means in the streets and in the trenches and in the kitchens of this nations firehouses may be as important and more relevant to the fire service than sitting in a classroom. That is the precise reason why people need to be bale to quantify that non-traditional learning.
    Define what you mean by quantify that learning?

    Lets look at another fire service veteran. Vincent Dunn

    Been to tons of fires, spent more than 40 years in the FDNY, has hung around a kitchen or two. Yet his degrees were earned. More importantly he is respected, not because he purchased a title but because he did the job, he knows it and doesn't have to impress anyone.

    Lets move out west. Brunacini - Been in the fire service 40 years. Earned his degree's, not through "Quantified non-traditional learning", an oxymoron if there ever was one, but instead got them they way the majority of firefighters have received degree's. He earned it as well as the respect for doing the job.


    "You can't argue with those so wrapped up in the person that they can't discuss the issue"

  18. #18
    Senior Member Dalmatian90's Avatar
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    Who is more of a Doctor?

    (A)Someone who purchases the letters after having 30 years of practical firefighting experience, which includes hundreds of hours of classes, thousands of hours on the fireground, and hundreds of pages of documentary writing?

    or

    (B)Someone who "earns" the letters by sitting in a classroom for eight years?


    Hmmm, so should a Paramedic with thirty years of field experience be considered an M.D. based on his experience and reading medical books and JEMS?

    No, the term Doctor goes to the person who spent the eight years in the classroom.

    That is the precise reason why people need to be bale to quantify that non-traditional learning
    I can quantify mine. Have a classification folder with my certs and some personal notes filed in it. At work I keep a three-ring binder I throw reports of projects and other accomplishments I'm particularly proud of in, along with my computer certifications and compliments and thank you notes. There it is.

    Sorry, but college degrees aren't meant to quantify non-traditional learning. They're meant to quantify academic accomplishment.

    If you want for vanity or other reasons to quantify fire service experience, then make a certification. Oh, shoot, they've done that -- haven't they. From the Connecticut State Commission on Fire Prevention and Control course guide, under Fire Officer IV:

    Projects need not necessarily be created especially for this
    course. Projects previously prepared by the participant may
    be submitted. As such, credit for life experiences to date will
    be available.

    Sounds like quantifying experience into a certification title.

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    I would defer to dalmation on his excellent response to Mr. Wendt's post. I think it says a lot when so many people, including peers of those who are PhD'd by "non-traditional Institutions" express in private what they will not say in public. To try and focus on a particular point, how will this look to the public when they see that our "learned" experts have degree's that are "Quantified" through experience? They will be outraged. Who is it on these forums that continues to say that "we are our own worst enemy". If our speakers are not up to the task to represent us then the fire service is shown in a negative light. That is unfortunate.

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    To try and focus on a particular point, how will this look to the public when they see that our "learned" experts have degree's that are "Quantified" through experience? They will be outraged.

    Guess again. Where is this mass outrage? It is so non-existent that you have to keep re-posting the same old nonsense to keep your personal agenda going. Well, I'm done.

    dal, I have had some debates with you and I know that we can agree to disagree. You have your respected opinion (and no personal agenda) and I have mine (and no persnal agenda). I respect your opinion on this matter. I know that you can respect mine. Thanks for the debate.

    Oh, yeah, box, I'd just like to clarify that despite you trying to bait me into it, I have refused to play the PM game with you, so ther folks here can know that I have not said anything in private to you that has not been posted here.

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