The Language War of Professional Certification

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As a foreigner traveling in Latvia and Estonia this week, I am enjoying the opportunity to revive my university acquired Russian skills some 35 years ago. I can enjoy also the game of picking up a few words in Estonian and finding elements of Russian grammar in the Latinized Latvian shop signs. It’s a game one enjoys as a lover of foriegn language study. Like any puzzle, the more linguistic pieces you pick up the more complete the puzzle, until it forms a complete picture, a beautiful mosaic of human development and civiization.

In the streets of Europe you will find many people, especially in the smaller countries, who speak two, three, four or more languages. The best can speak the local Estonian language, plus the language of the eastern empire, that is Russia, as well as our international language – English. They accept the past and the strong influence of Russian, they love their local Estonian, which they want to develop to the fullest, while they look to English as the door to a bright future.

Yet below the surface, there is a language war going on in Estonia and many other countries around the world. Languages are the lifeblood of nations. With their destruction comes the inevitable destruction of local culture, values, lifestyle and national existence. Small countries such as Estonia have experienced national repressions that not only sought to subjugate a people but to eliminate them through the process of a combination of extermination, forced emigration and assimilation. For example, before WWII 95% of the Estonian population was in fact Estonian, but the Soviet Union managed to kill or exile the leadership, along with the forced migration of large numbers of the Estonian native population to central Russia, while simultaneously encouraging the immigration of native Russians to Estonia, thereby overwhelming the small Estonian population, replacing their way of life with that of Russia, starting with the Russian language. Today, less than 70% of the population is native Estonian.

You can see these types of battles played out in many other places around the world, as for example in Quebec, where the native French speaking population enacted strict language laws that drove a very large emigration of English speakers out of the province and out of the country.

Here are a few articles on these language wars:
Estonian language war
Latvian languagee war
French Canadian language war

Depending on the openness or repressiveness of any given society, we allow or suppress minority language usage. Things are really no different in the “new world” where we experience a United States multilingualism war under the general multiculturalism debate, that is, a war between those who believe everyone must assimilate and speak English if they are to be accepted as Americans vs. those who believe that by encouraging the preservation of diverse subcultures we create a richer more accepting fabric to our open society.

In Israel the revival of Hebrew helped to unite a nation dispersed throughout the world and speaking a tremendous diversity of languages. Perhaps American Indians would never have reached a point of near extinction had they at some point in history found one common language rather than approximately 300 languages!

So without going on forever about language war, let me ask you this based on the above discussion. Is there a parallel between language war and the type of debate that happens between professional certifications?

If I was in the legal profession, I might wish there was one national certification, at least so as to work on inter-state federal matters and to set one common base professional standard. The requirement to know state laws necessitates one state specific standard for each state. I couldn’t imagine more than one standard in any given state.

The medical profession requires common standards and certification for public health, yet there is also a need for people to have viable alternatives, such as chiropractic medicine, which has been battling the mainstream medical profession for recognition. Here the differences between mainstream medicine and one of several alternative medicines resulted in a completely different association and certification process. These two professional communities could never come to a reconciliation except in court.

Since this is a pest control blog, let’s think about pest control certification. Is there a need for a national standard of pest control service? The national pest management association seems to think so, and I agree, so long as it does not stifle the development of alternative standards. The opportunity exists to acquire the Quality Pro Certification. Yet, there are many companies in California that would argue that we already have an equal or better standard.

During the time that I was involved in discussions regarding green standards, industry leaders were unhappy with the idea that outside entities, “the environmentalists,” would define green certification standards for the industry so as to protect the consumer. Programs like EcoWise Certified and the IPM Institute Greenshield program were rejected while the industry simultaneously lifted many elements from those standards to create the industry-friendly Greenpro. Many leaders in the industry hoped that by putting the power of the NPMA behind a green certification that they could effectively overwhelm the other certification bodies and become the one national certification that defines green pest control. But the government based EcoWise Certification, while down is not out and the academically based Greenshield remains a viable and highly admired certification. Now, the pest control field has three or more dialects in the form of certifying bodies to define green pest control.

Hearts Pest Management is an example of a company that has been in the green pest control market for many years. It is happy to have the recognition of being an EcoWise Certified pioneer and has several customers that work under those guidelines. Yet it also has many customers in its’ “GreenThumb” green pest control program that operates under a related yet different protocol for green and organic pest control services. For Hearts, the Ecowise program has been perfect because of its’ understanding and flexibility within limits for companies that are serious about exploring the boundaries of green and organic pest control. They understand that we are in a period of discovery and they have a California mentality program that can grow with the flow of information and discovery.

Hearts Pest Management believes that the pest control field is evolving dramatically. Old time pest control pros saw themselves as exterminators, “bug people.” (Actually, I would say that the term “bug people” was a euphemism for “pest people,” as it was in the context of pests that exterminators considers bugs). Gradually, with increasing regulation and environmental oversight the standard of a good pest control professional was one who practiced “pest management” according to integrated pest management standards. As the pest control industry has evolved it appears there were always those pest control professionals who felt the response should be, “This far and no farther.” Hearts Pest Management believes that the definition of green truly involves as some would argue, a state of mind. But it is not simply a state of mind. It is the outer boundary of minds. At Hearts, they are defining green around 5 wins: one for the company, one for the worker, one for the customer, one for the broader customer defined by the community and finally, one for the environment. They see pest control as being at the critical junction between the environent, the animal kingdom and humanity. They define themselves much more broadly than many pest controllers, though they are certainly not alone. They see themselves as environmental healers or environmental balancers at the core of an interdisciplinary field called conservation medicine.

The area of bee control service is one where there is an ongoing battle between bee removal (extermination) providers licensed within the pest control industry and those licensed as beekeepers. There are many professional pest controllers who wonder just how many “live bee removals” actually result in live bees. It can be done, sometimes. And they can be successfully recolonized sometimes. The lines are not always clear. There are pest control companies making serious attempts to save bees while there exist “bee keepers” unlicensed in pest control who are clearly killing bees. On a related matter, there are those who have overdramatized the issue of killer bees and totally reject the idea of saving bees. These are issues that should be vocalized within and betweeen the organizations that certify people in bee removal. Several years ago, our California pest control association developed a certification for the handling of AHB (Africanized Honey Bees). Many pest control companies gained revenues and killed many bees (whether AHB or not), including mine, as a result of this hysteria. Is it now time to complete the circle of knowledge with certification material from either within the pest control professional or outside of it that will help bee removal specialists to save bees through relocation.

Whether we are talking pest control, green and organic pest control, bee removal, fish and game, termite services, we should be happy to support national and state organizations that promote professionalism with the proviso that alternative certifications are not only valid but necessary to move the profession forward. The result of serious resistance to alternative certifications or the simple growth of radically different bodies of knowledge may result in breakaway professions with legitimacy to define and conduct pest control under a different banner. Perhaps they will be the environmental balancers?

Viewing the battles for dominance of certain pest control approaches, certifications and certification organizations within the context of the linquistic comparison presented and its’ negative impacts, perhaps the pest control industry should be looking to incorporate and/or validate approaches that are experimental or “out there on the edge.” I hope we will see more of this open approach to pest control and pest control certification.

I envision a time when a large segment of the pest control profession will move from being “pest people” to being true bug people, that is, entomologists aligned with environomentalists, who see bugs not just as pests but also in their role as “beneficials.” Our role will be enhanced to the degree that we are able to repair the environment such that beneficial life forms that have become pests can return to their beneficial roles, such as bees safely relocated to continue the job of pollination.

Please, I encourage you to share your thoughts and to freely comment. …. and do use those social media buttons to spread the word. Whether you agree or disagree, I hope you will find this blog entry stimulating enough to share with your peers.


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