The questions (with my humbly submitted answers in parentheses) boil down to these, IMHO:
I reviewed all the BoatPRO course material with my bracketing generations, and I think it's quite good, actually. It's a lot better than nothing, and also I hope raises the issue in the students about how much more there is to know. That's an important by-product of education, and perhaps one that should be more formally emphasized in the course.
Some of the self-test questions at the end of the chapters are hilarious. Some are along the lines of "does alchohol a) improve or b) harm judgement and performance?" But teaching and testing are complicated matters, and I have no idea how professionally the testing was designed. It depends on i) what are the goals of the course and ii) does the test measure them adequately and fairly? Answering those questions scientifically can be quite an involved process, and may have been done. It may be under re-evaluation (I hope so!), as it always should be. I can't criticize the process too severely (yet - it's still early days) without having some inkling about those issues. But many boaters study hard for the test, learn a lot in the process, in which case the test is just a formality anyway. The goal has already been achieved. If there are testers out there putting through grossly unqualified applicants, then let's lobby and deal with that issue, not eliminate the whole program.
Don't throw the baby out with the bath-water!
Now, about letting BoatPRO course passers join CPS. Somebody told me they already can, but in a different category. They can't vote or something irrelevant like that, because most of us don't vote anyway. However, I hear that fewer and fewer people are taking the standard CPS courses, and the reasons for that bear examination and re-examination. A personal view is that life is just too busy, and very differently so from a generation or so ago. I just took AP, which has been redesigned to about half its previous length, and still found it a huge and difficult commitment of time and energy. I'm not considering going on to Celestial anytime soon, and my family says, "Please, no!" So, making the organization more inclusive may be a very modern, realistic and appropriate response. Does having "associate" members make it more or less likely that some of them will go on to more formal CPS training? I suspect the answer is positive, although that will deserve continuing analysis as the years go by.
My sense is that the world is divided into three categories. One does not need instruction, one will not heed instruction, but the third we can lead to instruction. I think that the latter category comprises the majority. I suspect that a lot of people learn a lot of things from mandatory training, although of course they don't become experts from one introductory course. That's not the point. They bump their level of knowledge and skill up a notch or two, and often come away with the realization of how much they don't know that didn't used to know they didn't know. That could be an important safety feature all in itself.
I don't have data for this, but apparently there is good data for car drivers' licences, for example - training helps, even when mandated. (Not everybody, not all the time - does not in any way negate the stats).
I think that what many anti-regulators really mean is that they find regulation inconvenient, and that if only everybody else were like them it would be unnecessary. But i) it's inconvenient - we all simply have to get over it - and ii) everybody else isn't like them - we all have to accept that. By your description, you're in category 1 - a minority. We don't design systems for the minority. It's always nice if regulators accommodate such a minority by allowing it to write the exam without taking the course - as one can for the Boat Operator's Card!
According to 1998 U.S. Coast Guard Statistics, 88% of all boating fatalities occurred on boats where the operator had not completed a boating safety education course. (I realize that one cannot necessarily conclude cause and effect from this.) (If this PDF link doesn't work, then right-click it.)
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-first posted: 2002-04-17
-this page updated 2004-04-10