Well, we did elect George W Bush at least once, so it is a hypotheses worth testing, I suppose. And though Ted Lee Eubanks’ blog post on the ABA Blog is really more about how the public is more into birds than birding, I find the idea that perhaps the fact that most Americans might not have what it takes to be birders interesting. What do you think?
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I think it’s not going to win any friends to the hobby (or the ABA) for them to stumble into that blog and be told they’re too dumb to bird.
I also think the statement that “[y]ou become an accomplished birder through study, not training” is way off base. No one becomes an accomplished birder by sitting around reading books or bird blogs. You go out and you find birds, preferably with more experienced birders.
If all of these assertions are true, how do we have middle-school students with life-lists in the hundreds and the ability to ID Empidonax species? How do we have pre-schoolers that can ID all their yard birds because mom and dad enjoy them and point them out? And all that without a college education? I think Ted’s post is rather insulting, actually, though I’m sure that was far from his intent. I do get his point about pushing people to love birds, not birding. I just don’t understand the need to assert that it’s due to lack of intelligence.
Kirby, you make some excellent points, as you so often do. Study helps, but birding benefits more from experience.
I usually like Ted’s take on issues, but the tone of this post feels wrong. Plus, I don’t know why he had to go after fantasy football… I love fantasy football!
I did like Ted’s point about perhaps changing the focus from recruiting more birders to simply encouraging people to be concerned about the birds and therefore their habitat.
I fully agree with that point as well, Robert. My last line of my second comment to Ted was: “we need to recruit others to the joy of birds first and let the joy of birding be born of that, if it will. That’s the path I took, and the map I strive to provide for others.”
As a European, I will graciously remain silent.
I almost always like Ted Eubanks’ thoughts but I agree that latest entry isn’t going to win over any casual birders who stumble upon that piece. I think becoming a great birder takes a substantial amount of study AND training. You don’t become a great field birder from just reading a lot of books but likewise just jumping into the field with no study isn’t going to get you very far either. The point about getting people to appreciate birds and habitat (even if they don’t ever become “birders”) is a great one. I have many relatives and friends who are much more appreciative of birds because of their association with me but in general I haven’t been successful in creating all that many hard-core birders (a couple and they were beginning birders to start with). Its really something people have to be interested in on their own, or at least have an inclination that way.
My suggestion is that you read the entire set of comments on the ABA blog. I am not sure how this headed in the “Americans are dumb” direction, but I believe if you read all of the text you will see that is not my point. If we write for brain surgeons, we will attract brain surgeons. If we write field guides, magazine articles, and websites for college-level reading, we will attract college-level readers. The average American comprehends at a middle-school reading level, and we write for college-level birders. If we want to recruit more people to caring about birds, we had better be sensitive to our audiences.
@Ted: I know that it wasn’t your point, and I mentioned that in my post. But you certainly made most Americans’ lack of knowledge about geography and lack of reading ability a point, and it is a point worth pondering for those trying to reach an audience beyond just the hard core birders.
Corey, I agree that America’s educational achievement (or lack thereof) is a topic for discussion. My interest, though, is how that impacts the interest in birds and birding. What I did not say, and could have added, is that educational achievement is historically low among African-Americans and Latinos, and they are underrepresented in birding as well. Writing succinct, simple content for a broad audience is not the same as “dumbing down,” no more so than writing for a young audience. Birding is esoteric enough on its own. I would hope that we can all accept the realities of the society we live, agree that none of this will change any time soon, and work to reach out to groups that otherwise are put off by what for many must seem like gibberish (try fuscous and kleptoparasitic for starters!).