The Curt Brown Chronicles: The Challenging Future for the Land Surveyor

Presented to the Property Surveys Division at the 24th Annual Meeting of the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (A Panel Discussion)

Objective of a Written Examination

The purpose of any registration act is to protect the public from the unqualified. It is certainly not a means of granting to a few an easy means of earning a living to the exclusion of others. As a condition of licensing, the public has a right to expect that those who are licensed are qualified; if they are not qualified, the licensing act merely serves the purpose of deceiving the public.

In the location of land boundaries, the surveyor also locates the boundaries of adjoiners. He is in a quasi-judicial position, in that he is obligated to consider the rights of others, even though they may not pay him a fee. This is the primary basis for limiting the practice of land surveying to a qualified few.

A written examination is for the purpose of testing the capabilities of candidates in given areas; it cannot test capabilities in all areas. Is he honest? Is he ethical? Would he protect the public fairly as compared to his client? The proof of these questions lies in his past behavior. Letters of recommendation and past performances should be inquired into. This topic is not the subject of this paper.

In defining a profession, one of the often cited qualifications is superior knowledge which is used for the benefit of others. The objective of an examination is to test whether a person does in fact have superior knowledge.

Knowledge is difficult to define, but it is more than an accumulation of facts. A surveyor must have a superior knowledge of factual things; he must be able to recall factual things and sort out pertinent information; he must think; he must use logic to come to correct conclusions; and he must effectively communicate his conclusions to others. A surveyor’s examination is not the mere process of asking factual questions; it must also test the ability to think, reason, conclude correctly, communicate effectively, and use good judgment.

The objectives of a written question can be classified as follows: (1) testing factual knowledge of surveying (including reading and writing ability, knowledge of the meaning of words, elementary mathematics, tools, and related subjects); (2) testing the application of factual knowledge to surveying problems or questions (this tests the ability to think, use judgment, and come to correct conclusions).

These types of questions are quite appropriate for chainmen, rodmen, and other technicians with limited knowledge and education. But do they have a place in the professional surveyor’s examination?

Factual information is one of the lower forms of education. True superior education is the ability to recall factual information pertaining to a problem, sort out the essential facts by thinking and then come to a correct conclusion. The ability to parrot factual information without the ability to form conclusions is almost a nullity; parrots can speak but are unable to ask for their dinner.

All of us at one time or another have had employees that could quote the book from one end to the other but who could not put the facts together to solve a problem in a strange situation.

If we are to be a profession, which we claim to be, the object is to discover and license people who, in addition to knowledge of factual information, have the ability to think and correctly reason. Sixteen hours of examination time is all too short to waste portions of the time on such trivial and meaningless questions as those given above. We are not trying to license technicians; we want people with good judgment.
Author Michael Pallamary has compiled the writings and lectures of the late Curtis M. Brown. These works are published in The Curt Brown Chronicles.