I thought I could move on to other topics after my conclusions to the recent spate of citation posts, but it seems there is another underlying issue here, whether genealogy is a profession or a persuasion? I recently read a post by Michael Hait:
Michael Hait, “Source Citations: Why Form Matters, part four,” Planting the Seeds: Genealogy as a Profession blog, posted 21 Jul 2011 (http://michaelhait.wordpress.com : accessed 24 July 2011)
I would normally link my reference to his post directly to the post itself, but Mr. Hait requests the above citation. Anyway, his comments got me thinking. Arizona is one state in the United States that does not have an unauthorized practice of law statute in effect. This essentially means that in Arizona, anyone could practice law if they chose to do so. I don't think I have to argue that law is a profession. Normally, to practice law in any jurisdiction, you have to attend some kind of law school (usually accredited) and graduate. Then take an extensive examination administered by the local State Bar Association and then after passing the exam, be admitted to practice law by the Supreme Court of the State. There are a few variations on this theme, but most jurisdictions have an exam and regulate the practice of law.
Now, because Arizona doesn't have an unauthorized practice of law statute, does that really mean anyone can practice law? Well, no. Because the State Supreme Court regulates the courts, they make rules that only allow admitted, exam passing, State Bar members to practice law in the courts. So what else is there? You can become a document preparer, but guess what, even that "profession" is regulated by the Arizona Supreme Court.
I might mention that many of the same types of requirements apply to everything from dog groomers to accountants in Arizona. Professions are regulated. Why? Of course, for the protection of the public from dishonest, poorly qualified and shoddy non-professionals. Does that really work? To some extent. For example, in Arizona if you are not a registered contractor (builder) you cannot bring a lawsuit to enforce a claim for payment for services. So, if you do some construction work for someone and you are not a registered contractor, you cannot legally collect the money due you for your work!
Professions, such as law, were not always regulated by local governments. However, the idea of guilds and labor organizations have an ancient history. Professions have their academic counterpart. You cannot get a job as a professor for a college or university, usually, without some academic degree. A full professorship almost always requires a doctorate degree or more. The academic professionals impose their own requirements on "membership" in their exclusive profession. If you have ever received a Ph.D or equivalent, you know how hard the academic community can make entrance into their profession.
So what does all this have to do with genealogy? There are those who wish to make genealogy an academic profession with regulated credentials. They make the requirements as difficult as practically possible, so that the public can be assured that those who have the professional designation have passed all of the requisite requirements. Then there are those who would argue restrictiung the "practice of genealogy" only to those who are "qualified." Thereby making genealogy a real profession.
Professional genealogists see this idea of restricting the "profession" as protecting the public from the unauthorized practice of genealogy, just like the Arizona Supreme Court views the practice of law. I take a much more liberal position. I do not think that genealogy should be restricted either by jurisdictional fiat such as the Arizona State Bar and Arizona Supreme Court, nor do I think it should become an exclusive club of academic professionals. I have pointed out in the past that there are virtually no university level courses with only one or two exceptions, producing a qualified degree in genealogy. Why is this the case?
As it is, genealogy is a very democratic and inclusive persuasion. I can legitimately call myself a genealogist even if I never attended a university at all. Some of the best researchers I know are not academically qualified.
The argument about citation form is basically a secondary argument for "professionalism" in the world of genealogy. Do we want genealogy to become like the legal profession? Absolutely exclusive? I argue for inclusiveness and charity in the field, recognizing the vast majority of practitioners that have no formal training or any desire to obtain any. In almost any human activity in the world today, there are some adherents that rise to the professional level. I do believe that genealogy needs professionals. I also believe that genealogy needs standards. But I do believe that we can be inclusive and not lose our own professional level standards.
As a final note. Do I think it is necessary to use "proper" citation form in my blog posts? Think before you give your own opinion. How much formality do you want to live with? Do you have a personal copy of Mills' book?
Mills, Elizabeth Shown. Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace. Baltimore, Md: Genealogical Pub. Co, 2007.
(By the way, the above citation is in Turabian form, because I happen to like Turabian).