How Much Do You Really Know…?
By Dale Cole (K8TS)
When you were in school, did you pass from grade to grade because of what information you knew, or were you booted up a level because the teacher did not want you in her class a second time? It happens, we all know that. The bummer was, when you got to the next level, you often did not have a clue what the teacher was talking about. Why this phenomenon? Can we blame the teacher? Yes.
Huh? The teacher taught you the answers to the study material. Often the material did skip the whys or underlying conditions. She did not drill you on the Gettysburg Address except to make you aware that old Abe gave it, and it was written on the back of an envelope. When the quiz came out your mind was not cluttered by answers a.) James Crow, b.) George Washington, c.) General Grant or d.) Abraham Lincoln. You knew it was Abe because that was what you were taught. And only that. The excess baggage of Jim Crow, Geo. Washington, and Gen. Grant were not cluttering up your mind.
What does that have to do with Amateur Radio? In today’s times, the narrative is: Don’t get bogged down in distractors, just know the right answer, that’s all you need to know. You don’t have to delve into it, research it, or study it. Just know that when R1 + R2 are added together it equals the sum of R1 + R2 (in series only). (Page 20, 1964 ARRL Handbook). Why? Dunno, that’s just the answer to Question 3 on the Technician Class test.
We are living in a world of instant gratification, and that is what we are teaching. For prospective hams, many times they are only taught the right answers. Don’t mess the mind up with facts and figures.
There was a time, this author thought the greatest thing to happen was the “cram courses” for the individual to memorize, which were great inroads to building the ham population, and obtaining as a result, a larger organizational membership. Since the author became involved in the actual sales and assisting new hams, the realization of this technique has hit home…it is wrong.
For those of you who are not aware, yours truly works as a chat host (“experts they call us”) for a major supplier of amateur radio gear. The questions we get are mostly intelligent questions from those who have done some research or attained some product knowledge. However, new hams are instantly identifiable when they call. They have obtained their license but are lost. So, what is the easiest and fastest way to get an answer? Just ask, don’t check out catalogs, don’t spend some time with YouTube, don’t obtain product brochures, just ask, and sadly show how uninformed you are. Let’s look at some examples, and folks, these are not made up… they are the real thing!
I will start with an actual question that I came across the other day, but not in a chat. Picture of a ham holding up a piece of coax. He held the coax so you could see the letters on it. They read “JSC Wire and Cable, 8x” He was asking what coax he had and what was it good for? One of the obvious answers was: Google is your friend, or, read the lettering.
As the saying goes, there is no stupid question. Here are some that almost beg to differ:
|Guest: Okay, talked to someone here last week, and had to go look at the model number for my HF radio, which is a Kenwood HS450S if I read it correctly. I need an antenna. What is the best for a non-base station?|
|Guest: I need an adaptor. Host: What do we need to adapt to and from? Guest: I don’t know he just said it has to fit or go with a 710 radio.|
|Guest: I just bought an Icom 5100 (that’s a 2m/440 mobile), what is the best antenna?|
|Guest: I don’t have a license yet, but what is the best all-around radio for me to buy?|
|Guest: I live in an HOA, I want to put it in the attic where it can’t be seen, what antenna will cover all the bands? Host: Are you trying to cover just the VHF/UHF bands? How much room do you have? Guest: I have about 25 feet across. I want to cover all the bands. (yes, 160-440)|
|Guest: I can hear the people on the repeater but can’t talk to them. Host: Have you checked to make sure you have the correct tone and offset? Guest: What kind of tone?|
|This one is real, you may think I’m making it up, but it has been asked: Which end of the coax should I connect the antenna to?|
|Yes, we are giving out the right answers, but we are failing to educate the receiver. Most of you know Leo is a pilot. Do you think that he just educated himself on the correct answers to his written exam? Then just jumped into the cockpit? How about our resident skydiver? Think he did a multiple-choice test that qualified him to jump out of airplanes? Did Harlan just take a memorized test to be in law enforcement? Many have jobs of different natures, but did they get those positions by memorizing multiple-choice tests or understanding the material they are working with? Are we failing our successors in this hobby? Give it some thought.|