I’ve been mulling over my opinion on this for almost a month, and I really haven’t made any progress besides reading other people’s comments and waffling on what I think of the whole thing. (Check out the announcement and ensuing comments threads at the STC Notebook.)
Pros for certification include a more stable sense of community (it’s easy to see who’s officially a technical communicator and who’s not), the benefit of being required to maintain a portfolio, professionalization, and something to put on one’s resume.
Cons include the work required to be certified when one is already competent, the monetary factor (one does wonder about the timing of this, given the economic situation), and concerns about who gets to judge these certification portfolios.
I think it all boils down to how this idea is implemented. Right now, there just aren’t enough details available for me to make an informed opinion.
One thing I can conclude is that teaching classes using a works-based or portfolio-based system appears to be more aligned with the field than using a test-based system … and I’m happy about that! Closed-book, timed assessment of writings skills just hasn’t ever seemed like a great idea to me except in very specific contexts. Take, for example, the ACT’s writing portion. It’s pretty hard to argue that standardized writing assessment for college entrance purposes is a good idea, in my opinion. (After all, shouldn’t the student write differently to each college to which she applies? If she doesn’t, isn’t that an example of poor rhetorical skills in terms of audience analysis? Which is what the ACT is currently promoting, right?) Conversely, doctoral comprehensive examinations have a much clearer purpose and easy-to-see value.
But that’s a can of worms all its own, though the two issues are certainly related … and perhaps indicative of a cultural anxiety about what is important in our writing.