Top Secret Standards Project: No News is NOT Good News

I’ve been on vacation…I took a deliberate ten-day break from the Internet and from all the politics of massage while I was enjoying my annual sojourn in Ireland. I didn’t visit any Internet cafes. I didn’t read the paper and I didn’t watch the news. I left my cell phone at home, too. It was quite refreshing and restorative to be unplugged for that period of time, but now it’s back to the grind. From the look of things, it would seem that the powers that be are enforcing a news black-out as well. They have apparently been sworn to secrecy. It looks like a covert operation from the CIA.

The press release from the Leadership Summit, held in Chicago May 1-2, and attended by the leaders of our national organizations, was released May 9. I was expecting a white-washed version of the events, and I was not disappointed.

Out of nowhere, the press release mentions casually: “An ongoing discussion of the Entry-Level Analysis Project (ELAP) occurred and input from the leadership organizations was discussed.”

Wait just a minute… isn’t this the very first public mention of this project? No one outside of the inner circle of secret-keepers knows what the ELAP is, who the driving forces are behind it, and what its real purpose is. They can’t just drop a profession-altering project onto the landscape like it’s a known quantity, wave a little flag that promises us some future opportunity to have input into the project, and then expect us to salute the results whatever they may be.

The Leadership Summit press release mentions that massage therapists are going to get some input into this project—through a “companion” survey to the FSMTB Job Task Analysis. That may sound promising, but let’s remember that FSMTB is an exam provider, and their major focus is on the MBLEx. The Job Task Analysis survey is not necessarily the best way to determine what an entry-level massage therapist needs to know.

The big problem with the use of these and other surveys in our profession is that many therapists received insufficient education in their entry-level massage training programs. It’s unfortunate, but these folks don’t know what they don’t know. Asking this group what constitutes safe and effective massage therapy practice is barking up the wrong tree.

If all you’re looking for is a snapshot of the hours per day one spends doing massage and performing the laundry and other mundane chores that go along with that, it will suffice. But what about seeking opinion and honest-to-goodness input? What about addressing the concerns that the people who will be affected the most by whatever plan comes down the pike? Primarily, that will be small school owners, many of whom are already struggling to survive.

There are still so many things I find disturbing about this whole process, not the least of which is that none of our massage news outlets is saying anything about it. You’d almost think I’m the only one who cares. With the possible exception of a surprise birthday party, I tend to mistrust anything that has to be carried out in secret. So the nice sentiment (which I am glad to see has replaced the “we aren’t seeking input” statement that I found so offensive in the original document) that “A key component to the success of this project will be broad input by the massage profession” notwithstanding, I’ll repeat the call to action from my last blog:

A really good first step would be for ABMP, AMTA and FSMTB to release a full description of the project, including what they plan to do, how it will be done, who sits on the new workgroup, what the timelines are, and what money will be spent. And most importantly, we want to know what they intend to do with the “evidence”. When organizations that represent us are making major decisions that affect us, we deserve to be involved in the process.

In spite of my objections to this whole cloak-and-dagger scene we’re being subjected to, I am comforted by one thought…and that is that the wheels of government turn slowly. Whatever plan the ELAP work group comes up with is just that: a plan. I don’t visualize state lawmakers running to the legislature floor intent on helping them get it off the ground. AMTA is not a regulatory body, and neither is ABMP. For that matter, the FSMTB isn’t either. The individual member boards are regulatory bodies, but the organization in and of itself is not. They don’t have any law-making power.

I don’t know what’s happened to the transparency that we should expect from our organizations, but it seems to have gone to hell in a hand basket. Frankly, I think that would be a good topic for the next leadership summit. The peons like me who pay your membership dues deserve it.

5 Replies to “Top Secret Standards Project: No News is NOT Good News”

  1. It’s interesting that this project was only 1 thing that was discussed during that meeting, yet it’s the one that is causing the most controversy. I personally am more interested in the other topics as I’m not sure about this project and have many concerns. I too am hoping for more clarity at the AFMTE conference. Unfortunately, at this time there isn’t anyone representing the ABMP attending the conference.

  2. If anybody really wants to know what’s going on, take some responsibility by picking up the phone and calling your organization (or call all seven for that matter). All their phone numbers and addresses are easily accessible. They represent your interests and want to know what you think.

    In terms of politics, if I feel there is an issue that needs to be addressed in my community, I pick up the phone and call my local councilor or my local member of parliament (I’m Canadian, eh) and get them to fill me in and I have an opportunity to let my opinion be heard. It’s a simple process.

    We’re not looking at “cloak and dagger” operations by big brother or corporate scheming and espionage. This is profession is a small community and these people are trying to make it better. If you want to understand what they are doing to that end and to have some input in the process, take some responsibility and a little bit of time out of your day and talk to them. It’s not complicated.

  3. By all means, do contact them all, and give them your opinion. Tell them that secrecy is not acceptable and that we should stay informed of what’s going on, that they should be more diligent in releasing information to the profession at large instead of having just a few people privy to a major project that has the potential to change the landscape of the whole profession, and there’s really no excuse for having to call up and ask for details. Transparency demands that it’s all laid on the line.

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