St. Louis, MO
Posted - 02/03/2011 : 2:10 PM
What I found very interesting is that the Agreement says nothing specifically about the classroom itself. Nothing.
It does, however, specify that MSF Property includes the "RiderCoach Guides, Range Cards, Rider Handbooks, videotapes, and other printed and audio/visual training aids (collectively, "MSF PROPERTY"). And the new Agreement, like the past two versions, is extremely clear that a Sponsor cannot modify M$F Property. So let's think about that for a moment. How would one modify guides, cards, handbooks, videotapes, etc.? Reprint or reshoot them? And it doesn't prohibit any Sponsor from handing out additional material that M$F never saw and may not agree with.
The silence on the classroom aspect means the Sponsor, if they chose, could show "Die Hard" or "What Women Want" instead of M$F videotapes. Or cover something else entirely in the class as long as the students can leave with a handbook in their possession. This silence, then, seems to be sloppiness on M$F's part.
In contrast, the Agreement specifies "This prohibition includes any modification to the content or sequence of any exercise, or substantial deviation (as determined solely by MSF) from the recommended duration of any exercise." So the range appears to be the focus of M$F's concern, but I suppose no student's get seriously injured or die in the classroom. However, state administrators should note that the Agreement states "the recommended duration of any exercise". This would suggest that M$F could, at their sole discretion, object to and cancel the contract based on lengthening any exercise and not just shortening it.
In fact, interestingly, the RERP application form - for new sites/programs - doesn't ask where the classroom sessions will be held. It only asks for the range location. I suppose, as far as they're concerned, it could be held in a strip club, or Grand Central Station or I suppose, on the range itself. (And, interestingly, even though the Agreement specifies the BRC and ERC suite, it has this; "Check the course(s) you will be offering: BRC, MRC: RSS, ERC, Other. Hmmm, think that either needs updating or the Agreement doesn't agree with the application or has M$F changed its position on whether the RSS can be taught? Is it sloppiness or what here?)
Be that as it may, they do insist that the students are given handbook "for them to keep."
So this is puzzling students must have a handbook, but the Agreement and Application says nothing about a classroom or the classroom sessions nor specifically mentions that written permission must be obtained before any modification to the classroom content or sequence or substantial deviation from the recommended duration. Hmmm, specific prohibitions for the range sessions but not for the classroom. Doesn't that strike you as odd?
Is this because M$F doesn't care how the classroom sessions are accomplished or modified? Or is it just sloppiness on their part in the contract as, presumably, in the RERP application?
Or is there even going to be a classroom during the four years this Agreement is in effect?
But the issue of modification raises that same problem I've brought up before: The big selling point for many instructors, and the one that many instructors still love, was M$F's encouragement that the instructor make the course his/her own and add their own ideas into how it can be taught. They sponsor a listserv where instructors chat about how they modify the course in various ways and while M$F monitors it, there's no indication that these ideas are either approved by M$F or unapproved. But under this new Agreement, any changes could be seen as violating the contract unless there's written permission beforehand. That, too, though, would be up to M$F's sole discretion and once again open to arbitrary enforcement. So this codifies M$F's about face regarding the very reason many instructors prefer the BRC.
And that brings us to another gem buried in the Agreement: By signing this Agreement, the Sponsor such as a state program binds themselves to accept any and all changes the M$F decides upon. Section III. D: "MSF may modify MSF PROPERTY at any time. MSF will give Sponsor reasonable time to incorporate revisions or replacements to the curriculum, training aids, or range, and to have RiderCoaches attend applicable update sessions." But what is "reasonable time"? It doesn't say. I suppose, like everything else, it's up to M$F's sole discretion.
So, if the training aid that M$F decides upon is online training instead of the classroom by signing this, the program is bound to switch over to it. If the training aid is the Honda Rider Trainer simulator that replaces part of the classroom and range well, too bad for your budget. State programs and independent providers will have a "reasonable time" to come up with the money to buy them or M$F can cancel the "Agreement" and the program will have to cease using the curriculum.
And that is a real possibility. M$F has hired employees to work on an online program. Their website has had prototypes up for a while. They are field testing the simulator at the Honda Colton facility at least. Do you really think they're spending the money and time without any intent to use them? Particularly since it will move more students through the course more quickly?
Or think of it this way: if the plan was to eliminate the classroom and substitute online training and/or the simulator as a part of the curriculum, that would explain the silence on the classroom and the specificity on the range element.
Section III E. "In the event that MSF supersedes or ceases to recommend any MSF PROPERTY in possession of the Sponsor, Sponsor agrees to cease all use of such MSF PROPERTY." Anything goes that they say goes and the state has nothing to say about it. So, if they go with the online training and simulator and reject the classroom, that means programs have to follow suit or cease offering the curriculum as they have.
While the Rider Trainer simulators themselves aren't terribly expensive on a per unit basis, the screens and computers needed to run them plus the room to store them (and then set up for each class) or a permanent facility where they would be set up would be expensive for a state program to absorb. But then they wouldn't be paying the instructors for those classroom sessions so there would be some savings there. Even so, the logistics of using the simulators would favor private programs and dealerships that have a permanent facility.
Iow, just as M$F buried land mines in the legislation establishing state motorcycle safety programs, they appear to be burying new ones in the new Agreement. They are leaving the possibility that the classroom will be supplanted which means those land mines can explode when they want, how they want, and against who they want. Or perhaps a Trojan Horse is a better analogy and I'm feeling a bit like an overweight, middle aged Cassandra here.
Then again, I might be wrong and they have no plans to end the in person classroom sessions. If so, then they won't mind re-doing the Agreement to specify what exact nature the curriculum iswhat the minimum length of classrooms are, what modifications are or aren't allowed in the classroom, what is the proportion of in-class to on-range time is and so forth. If they refuse to do so, well, I'd suggest that Sponsors are buying that pig in a poke in this regard as well.
The SMSA, it seems to me, has the duty to demand concrete answers from M$F regarding both online training and simulator training before any state program signs this Agreement. Instructors have the duty to question their state administrator on how much freedom they will, in reality, have in teaching the course. And SMRO activists need to finally decide whether having a national trade group have this much power over how motorcyclists are taught in their state is a bull in the ring worth fighting for.