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<Bob Underwood>
posted
I am trying to put together some thoughts on this subject. Have you folks any comments on my ramblings?

Ethics of Educating the next Generation

A few years back in the Sunday comics, Calvin and Hobbes had a long discussion about cheating on a test. In the end, Calvin decided that it was probably wrong to cheat on this one in particular since it was an ethics test. This is a discussion that we have all had at some time, with our own Hobbes. Are we totally truthful when we hire someone or when we are being hired? Are we providing the best knowledge that we have to our customers when we make recommendations or bid a job? When we leave with the check, have we provided the best care possible to ensure long term health and well being of the tree? Have we set up a return visit based on tree health, business health or hopefully both?

The more I read lately, the less I can in good conscience suggest or sell to a customer. As I look back on 35 years in the business, I am starting to agree with more of the articles. I have lived in fantastic growing areas, Southern Illinois, and rotten growing areas, ND, but have never really seen a tree that I thought was stressed for macro nutrients and most of the micros were just tied up with pH problems. How often do we equate optimum growth rate with normal? I see trees in the timber living just fine without pruning. If the tree did not need the leaves, why did nature waste resources putting them there? It makes it hard to determine just how to present some subjects in class. I have to walk a fine line between what the book says, what the industry says, what my experience says and what the student may observe in the forests or their neighborhood. Are they helping the tree, the local ecosystem, the customer, the company or trying to balance all of these? It creates a dilemma for a new person entering the real world from that of education and/or TV "news" hype.

Rex Bastian of Care of Trees, at the ISA Educator's Summit in June of 2002, commented that they were after graduates that were familiar with, not necessarily proficient in a variety of techniques and equipment. He emphasized the importance of the students being able to "see the big picture" upon completing their course of study. Other desirable qualities included willingness to learn, take charge attitude, strong work ethic and a realization that they "can't have it all right now", they have to work and earn the right to move up.

Brian Cassity, Cassity Tree Service in Franksville, WI, told me a year ago, during a visit to a recent graduate, that we needed to help the student convert from educational homework to real world work. Both Brian and Rex emphasized that profit is not a dirty word.

Rex divided the knowledge that a new employee needed into four skill sets: personal, arboricultural science, arboricultural techniques and business skills. As an instructor, how do I create the perfect employee, who will be totally ethical as well as profitable.

I may have been the perfect employee when I started with Davey back in 1967. I had 2 years of college, to learn the personal skills and some time management, but I had had only one forestry course, dendrology. I knew only what I had learned in the 2 weeks of climbing school at Kent, OH and what Bernard Newsome and Walter Shields told me in Youngstown. This was a good crew, up to date with all the best techniques of the day and very committed to providing the best tree care as well as customer service. I often wonder how big a pain I would have been if I had known what I know now when I started. (Everything we used is now illegal, frowned upon or used sparingly: flush cuts, tree paint, DDT and Lead Arsenate.)

If I truly show a student the big picture, with all the latest internet linked bells and whistles, do I create a monster for the person who employs him or her? Will they ask why too many times? Will they be know-it-alls, too full of suggestions? As always, I am open to any comment you may have as either a recent student or an employer of such. Email me at underwor@misu.nodak.edu or call at 701-228-5434. Attaboys are nice, but a good old disgruntled customer may teach me more.

At a meeting for a group of teachers this summer in New Hampshire, Alex Shigo gave the following list when asked what we should be doing to promote tree education. 1)Learn about trees (biology and chemistry), 2)write, speak and talk about trees, 3)be courteous, but critical, 4)talk to young people, and 5)be stimulated, learn to motivate yourself. I am trying to do all of these steps in my chosen field. Wish me luck!!
 
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<James Causton>
posted
Reply to post by Bob Underwood, on August 31, 2002 at 17:03:27:

Hi Bob, What an interesting question.I empathize with you in your dilemma, but nonetheless offer the following.
Your students are not all formed from a single template, they all have varying degrees of sensitivity to trees and at the same time varying degrees of sensitivity to their bank accounts. As an educator you are simply in a position to offer to them all the options available, if those options are heavily commercial let them know that, if you have reservations about certain products/procedures let them know that also. The difference between you being a good teacher/instructor and a bad one will ultimately come down to the amount of choices you give your students. Give them the information, the pros and cons, give them your personal thoughts and let them make their own decisions from there.
For me personally, I have only ever seen my business improve as a result of telling clients to "leave it alone". I believe most people really appreciate that level of honesty and will always call YOU back in the future. There is plenty of honest work out there which needs to be done without selling unnecessary stuff.
There will always be opportunities for people to sell tree work which is not necessary but it makes the client feel better, there will also always be tree work which needs to be done to benefit the tree.
Hope I haven't rambled too much, good luck,
James.
 
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<Scott>
posted
Reply to post by Bob Underwood, on August 31, 2002 at 17:03:27:

I'm not sure it is entirely your resoponsibility to "produce" 100% ethical graduates. The foundations of ethics are laid by school, family and personality long before they get to you.

I think you can encourage two things. 1) competence, be knowedgable about the things you do and recommend, and 2) honesty, tell the real story and acknowledge the things you do not know.

One of the things I see as confusing to people is whether their "ethic" is to society or to biology. Some people seem to think their first duty is to the trees, to make them happy, to make the great Druid happy, to do the absolute best thing for the organism over the absolute longest time frame (which may mean doing nothing). Some see their duty to be honesty, not selling a bill of goods.

I think it is entirely reasonable to recognize that we have to treat trees in a peopled environment and our job may be to maximize co-existence which may mean something that is not optimum for the tree but saves it from removal. It may mean removal of an otherwise healthy, stable tree. We must also recognize that much if not most of what we do is for the benefit of the client not of the tree. As long as we're honest about that to the client I do not see it as unethical.

As James observes, for some businesses, especially small, personally focused businesses, saying "leave it alone" results in more business resulting from trust and respect. There are other businesses that want to sell, or have there reps sell, certain high margin services. There are businesses that sell services that keep all those big machines eating brush and making their monthly payments. They may even tell themselves it's all necessary.

There is nothing wrong with making a profit. If you don't you won't be there to take care of the trees or the client for very long. We've all seen "subsistence" businesses who work constantly just to pay the rent and keep the equipment rolling and don't have a spare minute to learn anything new... "what are you doing about this problem I don't have time to go to any meetings." A profitable business is essential to allow continuing competence.

So it all comes back to two core values, Competence and honesty.
 
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<Guy>
posted
Reply to post by Scott, on August 31, 2002 at 17:03:27:

I'm all with James on the virtue of saying "leave it alone". Customers do respect that. I'm with Scott that competence and honesty come first, but disagree (again) about are we working for the customer or the tree. for me the tree and its effect on the big picture come first, and the goal is to educate the customer about how to optimize its function. that increases property value and environmental health and benefits us all.

I disagree with Bob(s) about pruning; looking at woodland trees' self-sufficiency has NOTHING to do with landscape trees. I just spent the day reducing a leaning sweetgum with defective forks. the customer chose me over my competitor who proposed cabling not because my truck is shiny but because I sold what was best for the tree, which is often low-tech.

I left the tree looking like it had never been pruned, charged for the 20 minutes I spent over my estimated time, and got that plus a $20. tip.
My competitor, a national company who does a lot of research and uses yellow trucks, lost out because they tried to sell hadware instead of tree care. They and others like them have told me about the pressure to keep up the volume. That pressure negates competence.

I agree with Dr. Shigo about priorities, educators needing to write more; the trade mags welcome submissions. As for students learning too much and getting a knowitall attitude, I would say every tree is different and must be looked at as if it was the first tree on earth.

that's my 3 cents anyway
 
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<Scott>
posted
Reply to post by Guy, on September 02, 2002 at 08:29:31:

"lost out because they tried to sell hadware instead of tree care."

Are you suggesting doing nothing is tree care (I agree it can be), pruning the way you think it should be done is tree care (I'll accept that too), but that installing hardware is not tree care?
 
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<Bob Underwood>
posted
Reply to post by Guy, on September 02, 2002 at 08:29:31:

Guy,

I do not disagree on a pruning to eliminate a hazard. Once we place the tree in a populated setting, we become responsible for it. What I was referring to is the random crown reductions and thinnings to "keep it from blowing over" and let in more light or air. If the tree's internal micro climate is not right, how do the leaves survive anyway?

Here is one of my favorite articles on this subject. http://165.234.175.12/photos/Arbor/Article.jpg

Bob
 
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<Scott>
posted
Reply to post by Bob Underwood, on September 07, 2002 at 18:46:23:

Did some pieces of this thread get dropped? I'm not sure I follow here. But I think there are a few "ethical" comments to make.

Something that should be clear in educating arborists is that what is generaly ethical practice is what is generally accepted or standard practice. Ethical practice of course assumes that the practice is necessary... it is unethical to say "yes we must inject your oak tree to protect it from DED."

Individuals are completely entitled to personal preferences and personal ethics. If you prefer to prune rather than cable, fine as long as pruning accomplishes the same objective. If you chose to say "I won't work for you unless you rip out all the turf in your yard and mulch the whole thing becasue that's what's best for the trees," fine. You are entitled to practice that way as long as you don't drop below the accepted standard. Your personal ethic does not make it OK to top trees becasue you don't like climbing.

But your personal ethic does not make somebody who disagrees unethical. The other guy who cables trees according to generally accepted standard (ANSI A300 PArt 3) is not unethical becasue you don't like cabling. The guy who workd for the client who has turf in his yard is not unethical becasue you think turf is evil.

The guy who wears a plaid shirt is not evil or unethical becasue you prefer soild color shirts.

So add to honesty and competence, understanding generally accepted practice.

And another issue is why we do certain things. Your example, Bob, of routine thinning becasue the tree requires it to keep from blowing over is a great example. This may well be one of those myths which conveniently provide us with a lot of work so why not believe it? It seems to be a rather generally accepted practice, which would seem to make it ethical. So our competence must continually be updated. There are any number of references in the literature suggesting that not only is routine thinning unnecessary to keep trees from blowing over, but that some thinning may actually increase frequency of some types of damage.

I know this is begging an observation that cabling has disadvantages. It may. Technology need to continually evolve. But some of the "hype" about certain "flexible" systems seems overstated, perhaps to sell product. The recent JoA article suggests that hardware is less damaging than such hype would suggest.

The competence-ethics import of both of these examples is to keep an open mind. To learn. To be willing to adjust and adapt practice. To understand the range of practice and avoid overselling your personal preference. One size does not fitt all. The best practice in one situation may not be the best in another.
 
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<Guy>
posted
Reply to post by Bob Underwood, on September 07, 2002 at 18:46:23:

re hardware and tree care, I guess I got caught up in the rhyme--sorry. There is still the issue of cabling recommended before and without consideration of a reduction of weight, which I find hard to understand. Authors on cabling and specs sometimes agree reduction needs to happen, often not.

Like fert and anything else, pruning can oversold and overdone. It just seems like the most logical long-term way to deal with defective fork hazards, before attaching anything artificial.

I'm trying to appreciate more about recent arguments against thinning and reduction, but Brudi's website is in German and searches for Wessolly turn up nothing. Will Brudi's talk on tree statics really yield something useful for an arborist?
 
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<Scott>
posted
Reply to post by Guy, on September 09, 2002 at 09:01:48:

Well this is getting a little technical and off the point of Bob's ethics query... maybe a new thread should be started, but for now...

Whether weight reduction is necessary along with cabling is a judgment call. If the tree is relatively mature, i.e. non-juvenile, and there is a crotch with poor angle or included bark I don;t see how pruning and weight reduction are going to change that. Mechanical aids may be the best approach.

The tree may well "know" better than we do how much foliage it needs or "wants." I wonder if a simple mechanical aid is often the lowest impact, best result approach.

With or without crown manipulation, rsk reduction may require a short term measure which might most often mean a mechanical aid.

The physologiical aspects of thinning and reduction are not my expertise, I'll let others respond. The biomechanical arguments include higher within crown wind speeds, higher effective wind loads becasue wind is directed into rather than around the crown, and loading of foliage elements, stems or crotches from an unnatural, leeward direction... all as a result of thinning.

At the Brudi web site tree-consult.org click on the American-British flag icon to get into English and clisk on publications. There are 4 papers there in .pdf format. 3 by Wessolly. Sinn and Wessolly 1989 in a UK journal do suggest crown thinning or height reduction from a purely surface area, load and moment perspective.. This may not incorparate the other, mostly later arguments elsewhere.

The Brudi article on the website is an early draft of his Savannah paper. Final will be significantly more extensive. The Savannah Proceedings will be out Late Fall or early Winter and should be on your reading list.

This will all be great stuff. I'd say Brudi's talk will be informative, especially if you do some background reading. You can definietly learn. I don't know if that means immediately field applicable. But I don't know how we can all start incorporating this into meaningful practice withou a long learning curve. And practice will get there with or without us.
 
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<Guy>
posted
Reply to post by Scott, on September 09, 2002 at 10:16:49:

Just got 16 pg article on trees and statics from the nice guys at Bartlett. Will post elsewhere if something to say. My approach is more small-diameter reduction than just thinning, for physiological and biomechanical reasons.
Thanks for tip on clicking the flag on Brudi's site to get English. Will pick up remainder there.
 
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<Scott>
posted
Reply to post by Guy , on September 09, 2002 at 10:39:40:

I'd suggest doing a few things.

Start a file of this material. Be careful to lable each article as to source and date. These are mostly reprints from other German publications and you may find that what you think is a new article is one you already have. You may also find slight variations in the versions, particularly in that some of the later versions have better, color graphics.

Do not think that you are going to be able to go right out and apply any of this. It takes quite a bit of time to grasp it all. And due to translation and presentation issues it may take longer than the complexity alone would suggest.

Even once understood you won't be able to use it all without the instruments which are not readily available here yet... but that may be what these Fall offereings are about. In any case the understanding is useful even w/o the instruments.

Do not rely on a single source. Wessolly-Brudi for example are in one camp and Mattheck in another. They do not always appear to agree. Actually they appear to strongly disagree. In truth they may be closer on the science than they let appearances suggest. But that's part of the schtick. A German thing I guess. But Claus for example says the statics instruments are not reliable. Who knows?

Also, a lot of the material that is presented as new or proprietary or with only passing citation is in fact out there in lots of other literature. Obscure literature, but it's out there.
 
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<keith>
posted
Reply to post by Bob Underwood, on August 31, 2002 at 17:03:27:

Bob,

I understand your concern when you suggest overly-informed students may become insufferable employees, but that depends more on the student than the material they were taught, IMO.

Most new employees, especially those who are just becomeing adults, will go through a period of adjustment to the job, and their new coworkers are likely to take them down a notch or two early on. that's normal and part of growing up.

But to suggest you should skimp on teaching them things that may conflict with the practices of an established company is going too far. The first company I worked for wanted "trainees" who didn't know proper tree care, because they were teaching crews to make flush cuts (they called them "conventional" because the f-word had become disreputable) and to paint all pruning cuts regardless of species. Not knowing any better made it easier for me to stomach these improper practices even though my gut told me they were wrong, but I would much prefer to have "not fit in" and moved on than to have gone ahead and wrecked trees so my new employer would like my work. If you want your students to be ethical arborists, you're gonna have to tell them what that means, because not all employers will.

Even more, I think you have an obligation to teach them safe climbing techniques. They may get jobs with companies that climb old school but safe, and I think that's okay. Tying in with a taut-line in the tail of the rope works fine, even if many of us scoff at it now. But you can't be sure your students will learn from people who know even this most basic system. I see crews free-climbing off of ladders all the time. Maybe they'd rather keep their jobs than rock the boat; that's their choice. But I think you, as the teacher, should at least let them know what the choices are. At the other end of the spectrum, there are doubtless a lot of companies that think they understand new techniques but get them wrong. If your students correct the mistakes, they may have a bumpy ride with coworkers/employers or even lose their jobs, but that's better than a bumpy ride to the ground doing things the company way.

So, I say teach them everything you know and let them choose their own battles when they get into the working world. You may make life difficult for a few foremen here and there, but you might save the life of a tree or a climber in the process. I say that's worth it.

keith
 
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<Guy>
posted
Reply to post by keith, on August 31, 2002 at 17:03:27:

Keith makes some excellent points, that all teachers and supervisors should hear.

After free-climbing off a ladder for thirty years, I put the rope ahead of myself in a maple tree but didn't take the time to tie in, because it was such an easy tree to free-climb.

I pulled myself up using a branch I didn't look at first and KEE-RACK! it broke off. I'll never forget the whupwhupwhup sound of the rope whipping through the crotch, or the thud of my back hitting the ground. After I got my lungs working again, I looked around.

Most memorable was the sight of an iron pipe with a faucet sticking out of the ground less than two feet away. After being that close to a gruesome shishkabobbing, I'm more careful about always being tied in. (I still love my time-and-labor-saving ladder, though--why are they so unpopular?)

So yes, Bob, teach all you can. And remember, experience is the best teacher, so get them into the trees all you can!
 
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<James Scarlata>
posted
Reply to post by Bob Underwood, on August 31, 2002 at 17:03:27:

I have found that new employees with good problem solving skills will outperform those with extensive knowledge but lacking problem solving ability. Sort of a variation the big picture theory. For example it is more important to be able to use keys for identification or diagnosis than to memorize a list of common plants. Knowing the basic priciples and scientific methods are more important that the details.

Bob, where is MSU Bottineau and what university is it affiliated with?
 
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