Cool Heads

The profession needs to avoid manufacturing battle lines that do not need to be there.

?ou don’t lead by hitting people over the head – that’s assault, not leadership.?- Dwight D. Eisenhower

Cool heads need to prevail, and for the most part they do. There is an odd mix of emotions surrounding the transition of the surveying profession from the 20th century to the 21st ?angst, optimism, fear, excitement, motivation, despair?ny dialogue about finding ways to chart paths forward for the profession will include at least some of the more pronounced examples of those emotions. On that note, two things came to my attention over the past few days; one was a pleasant surprise, and the other was cause for disappointment ?I?l start with the positive oneU

A week ago a questionnaire was opened by the NSPS to solicit feedback from US surveyors on an ongoing initiative called the Forum on the Future of Surveying. If you have not filled out the questionnaire. Please consider doing so before May 15th so the results can be compiled before a planned June meeting of the forum. The forum is made up of representatives from 15 surveying (and related fields) professional associations, societies and organizations; the report from their first meeting can be read here. But back to the good news?r

The responses from surveyors to the questionnaire (300+ received in the first two days) have (with only a few exceptions) been constructive and positive – especially among the younger respondents (it is their future that is being discussed). A full report on the questionnaire will be prepared (and for those who provided names, no names will appear in the report). The responses show a lot of agreement on priorities for the forum to follow in charting discussions moving forward.

Who knows if the forum will result in substantive actionable ideas that the profession could implement to help move forward. But I am always a believer that sitting and griping about things is far less effective than trying to do something about matters ?correct me if I am wrong.

In addition to the multiple choice questions there are free form comments boxes in the questionnaire. The responses are almost all very well thought out; including some brilliant ideas that I hope the forum takes to heart. Yes, there are a few instances of the inevitable heated venting; like a YouTube comments field where folks can take any unrelated subject as an invitation to vent their frustrations with the world (or their own lives?) ?But very few. The overall tone was positive, or at least constructive. Then on the other handU

I?e seen a flurry of things online, in blogs, newsletters, posts, etc that are from folks in our profession that are (I can? think of a better term) ?olarizing? These include comments (sadly) even from representatives of professional associations, and some of the exalted elders in our profession. What kind of lines are being drawn? Some are bafflingcamps (that I have not actually seen to have strong followings).Most people seem to have a balanced view on these subjects:

Some of these are slightly exaggerated but there are vocal few who are close to one end or the other….

?o Experience Necessary?vs. ?e Don? Need No Education?r

?o Boards of Registration?vs ?trengthen the Boards?r

?urveying?vs ?eomatics?r

?o Exams?vs. ?ore Exams?r

?nclusive?vs ?xclusive?r

?age surveyors?vs. ?reen button pushers?r

?urveyors?vs ?ngineers?r

There are more. But there are probably very few folks who would actually fit exclusively into either of the opposing camps?ost seem to fit in between. I wonder if folks who cite polar extremes are employing ?traw man?tactics. Even more disturbing is that there are instances of folks couching opposing views on these and other subjects in terms of partisan political rhetoric (can our profession afford to go there?).

I think you? find most folks in the profession tend to seek balance in many subjects. And even if they have strong feelings either way would not be in favor of manufacturing hard battle lines where intractable stances will make enemies of people we might need as allies (or even more important as key markets). Surely our profession has to take the high road, prove that we are the cools heads in the room, and avoid building a wall around us to keep outsiders and their ideas out (that wall might ultimately only end up trapping us).

For instance, the battle lines with GIS did not work out well for us. What good will it do if surveyors (and especially our leadership) spout that they believe there are hidden agendas in say the engineering community to undo our profession? And why does each generation feel compelled to disparage the ones that follow? Dismissing young surveyors as unqualified button pushers and that schooling they got ?idn? teach them nothing?is counterproductive. For whatever ills there may be, trying to address them with constrictive ideas will do a lot more for our profession than drowning them out with ?a href=””>back-in-the-day rants? Surely the surveyor with 40 years of experience has more knowledge than the newbie (duh!), but how much did that sage surveyor know when they started? Chances are the newbie did learn some relevant stuff in their surveying program, and are better prepared to hit the field than their 1950? counterpart did coming straight out of high school. Saying ?hey only learn tech?is disingenuous and insulting to the dedicated surveying educators. Oops?ant off. 😉

Fortunately, there are few in our profession doing the following, but those that dosure make it harder for the cool heads to prevail:

What is the hazard of manufacturing battle lines and constantly grousing about the supposed demise of the profession? Drawing hard lines alienates markets and potential customers, boycotting efforts to create a dialogue about the future of the profession means your concerns are not heard, disparaging young people scares them away from the profession, dismissing education (without offering constructive ideas for improving it if there are actual problems) makes us look less a profession thana trade.

But what to do? If you do not like something you get engaged and try to fix it and as opposed to pointlesscomplaining. Two things that crush initiatives, or efforts to move forward: apathy and a******s. It is fortunate that there are few of the latter involved, and even though they be loud, they usually do not get taken very seriously (we hope). But unfortunately there is far too much of the former: apathy. The future belongs to the young folks who will follow; we have to respect their future instead of imposing our past on them. It may be high time we take those who wish to manufacture and trumpet manufactured battle lines to task.



Gavin Schrock, PLS, is a land surveyor, technology writer, and xyHt editor. @schrockg


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