the Herd Hear
Greeting Professionalization Fans!
Summer time is upon us and, with probably
the exception of Duluth MN, many of us are enjoying the summer weather.
Here in Lexington, KY the weather has warmed up nicely. At least
thatís what people have told me. Unfortunately, I donít get out much
since Iím currently completing my dissertation data collection. Iíve implemented
a 12-week training study involving 30 subjects. Each subject reports
to the lab four times per week for approximately 40 minutes per session.
At worst, it equals out to be 120 training sessions a week. Fortunately,
we have two treadmills in our lab and I am able to ďdouble upĒ enough to
cut it down to ~70 sessions. Either way, I get into the lab before
7:00 am and leave around 8:00 at night. It makes for some long days
and unfortunately I donít get to see the sun much.
The point to this explanation is that I
must confess Iíve gotten tired of thinking about my dissertation.
As a result, Iíve been following current events more closely as well as
reading more outside the field of exercise physiology. For example,
the FCC recently voted to reduce restrictions on the owning of various
media venues by corporations. This has opened a rather interesting
debate in the Senate and the House of Representatives due to an attempt
to have congress overturn the FCC ruling. Without getting too deep
into this rather complicated issue, many discussions regarding this topic
center around whether there is a compromise in the quality and quantity
of opinions being made to the American public when less individuals own
a majority of the media venues. As a result Iíve heard a variety
of opinions stating that the mainstream media is slanted to the political
left, to the political right, is socially left but shifts to the right
when business matters are of concern, or slants to what ever side gets
The issue of whether there is a ďmedia
monopolyĒ and, if so, how much this hurts the ability to have a healthy
democracy is interesting. Monopolies are illegal in the corporate
sector (although many would argue that slight mutations of monopolies are
quite common. But, the idea of a monopoly in media reaches far beyond
monetary concerns. For, it is not the control of money, but the control
of ideas that energizes many in this debate. Thus, a question
must be raised, what if one, or a select few, organization(s) controlled
what ideas were presented to the public?
The EP Herd
Few in a democratic society would
argue this would be good. Although fewer opinions are more efficient,
it is the ďanalysis to the point of paralysisĒ that turns the cumbersome
wheels of democracy at their slow but deliberate pace. With that said,
ideas coming from a monopolized origin would not affect the good critical
thinkers of our society. These individuals would simply trim off
the fat and slice to the core of most issues. Unfortunately, a large
part of our population does not work that hard when attempting to dissect
information. This sector takes the provided information and, when
action is needed, they follow the instructed steps like a herd of cattle.
This ďherdĒ phenomenon is exactly the problem
with exercise physiology. For I fear this herd is not heading to
land of green pastures and mountain streams but instead is plowing straight
for the slaughterhouse. Each year, mobs of unknowing students enter
unfocused and rather elementary curriculums taught by professors who are
pressured to play the ďnumbersĒ game. Simply stated, the more
students the more funding potential for the departments. As a result,
the classrooms are full with a captive audience trained to absorb information
while hoping that the eventual degree with lead to a job (although many
do not know what job it may be). After leaving the academic version of
feeding lots, the prowls are pushed along to tradition-based certifications
that probably help the financial standing of the organization providing
the certifications more than they help those earning them. Finally, the
livestock are cleaved into the various subunits of the market, only to
meet once or twice a year to talk about the science foundation of the discipline
while avoiding the issue that they are selling themselves just to put food
on the table.
Divide and Be Conquered
I have made this speech before so
Iíll spare you the excessive repetition. As some of you know, Iíll
grab any chance to take shots at the current status of many undergraduate
curriculums in exercise physiology. This time I am addressing not
the training of the herd, but its division through the splatter of certifications.
I find it amazing that many look to divide exercise physiology and not
unite it. A profession needs a strong core and foundation before
it subdivides. And, even then, it should be very strategic about
its creation of tracts or categories. A discipline with such a poor
foundation in the concepts of establishing and maintaining a profession
runs a strong risk of being sliced apart by established professions looking
to solidify aspects of the employment market.
It is unfortunate that one organization
that includes members from a variety of health care professions may be
deciding the future of exercise physiology. To me, this fact alone
shows a significant conflict of interest. Itís astounding and illogical
that EPs allow others who are not in the field to decide the path we should
take. Instead of uniting EPs in the concept of a profession, different
views about who governs exercise physiology continue to divide this field
into tracts that conveniently slide into the alignment of the health care
market. What a great idea! (sarcasm intended). Letís just certify
EPs and channel them into their usual submissive employment tracts!
This point of view is displayed by a majority
of exercise physiologists. But, just like a majority of Americans
eat too much fast food and do not exercise enough, the majority is not
always right. Whose is at fault for this? Is if the fault of
the herd for not thinking through the entire situation? Or, is it
the fault of the organization currently controlling the herd? In
other words, is there an EP monopoly? And, does that matter?
This argument has a variety of sides I will be the first to admit I do
not have a conclusive answer. One could always argue that it is the
responsibility of the consumer (the developing EPs) to critically dissect
the long-term path of the certifications they earn. On the other
hand, many young EPs do not have the experience to properly reflect upon
such a complicated issue. For example, I have a hard time imagining
a 22 year-old graduate asking the question, ďIf I earn this certification,
what does it mean for overall development of exercise physiology?Ē
Unfortunately, this highly unlikely question is exactly the one that needs
to be asked.
Concentrate on the Herd
How do we get people to ask a question
of that nature? How do we get people to see beyond the commonly accepted
truth? The most important action one can take when an intellectual monopoly
exists is to make his/her counter opinion available to the public to inform
others that other ideas exist beyond the common truth. In other words,
one should focus on the herd and not the monopoly. The more
visibility a logically developed perspective receives, the greater opportunity
of members of the herd may begin to question their current beliefs.
This is the reason this newsletter and ASEPís journal the Professionalization
of Exercise Physiologyonline exist.
The members of ASEP simply want EPs to know that another perspective exists.
By focusing on educating of the herd (and thus avoiding the bureaucracy
of the monopoly) one concentrates on developing and marketing concepts.
It is my conclusion that a limited amount
of perspectives is not the best way to evolve a concept or profession.
I also feel that an ACSM monopoly does exist. Interestingly, not
all faults can be placed on that organization for this. It is the
responsibility of other organizations (ASEP et al.) to market their ideas
to exercise physiologists with the hope that they will listen. I
encourage all who visit this site to make others aware that www.asep.org/
exists and that, regardless of personal opinion, one should consider the
concepts ASEP addresses.