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PEOPLE WITHOUT A CLUE
The Case for Crown Quals
[09/05/2004] [Randall]

Crown Quals is under attack. Proponents of change say that quals doesnít prove in any way that youíre qualified to hold office. They want some other system that tests your measure as a leader. In fact, some people question why they should go through the system at all. After all, if youíve qualified half a dozen times, why should you be asked to do it a sixth time? Youíve proven you can qualify to hold office, havenít you?

Now, while Iíd certainly benefit from this kind of system, Iím full-square against it. You see, itís simplistic to assume that quals exist to test you as a leader. If a process could do that, why vote anyway? Just give everyone a Ďleadership testí and whoever gets the highest score must clearly be the best leader. No, quals proves something else, something important, and something foes of the system miss in their drive to dismantle it. They see the system, but donít see why itís important. They donít see that Crown Quals as a cultural contest is an intrinsic part of the game upon which so much more rests.

With that in mind, I give you ten reasons why we should keep Crown Quals.

Our election process embodies the ideals of Amtgard.

Amtgard is about many things. Itís about people swinging foam swords at the park. Itís about newbies sewing their first tabard and old members turning out quality garb. Itís about bardics and feasts, art and weapons, history and fantasy. By linking our electoral process so closely to the ideals of our game, we bind our officers into the very fabric of Amtgard in a way that a Ďleadership testí never could. Weíre saying that these things Ė these games, these contests, these cultural events, these tournaments Ė are the most important things in Amtgard and the foundation of our game. Shift that foundation and you shift the game. Think about that when you say the foundation of the game should be a free ride for experienced members, or a system of speeches and debates to pick our leaders.

Itís not about proving that you can lead. Itís about proving that you can play.

A lot of people complain that the qualification process doesnít really prove that you are qualified to lead, but theyíre missing the point. Crown Quals doesnít exist to check your qualifications to hold office; rather, itís a procedure you must pass to qualify for office. Thatís an important distinction, since that procedure could be anything Ė it could be a tournament, or collecting a list of signatures, or debating with speeches. . . but by making that procedure a contest of arms and Amtgard culture, we ask that our officers play the game. So, in the end, candidates donít prove that theyíre great leaders. Thatís up to the voters. Instead, they prove that they can pass a test of their Amtgard ability. Crown Quals says thereís a minimum level of participation in all aspects of Amtgard that we demand of our leaders, and qualifying proves that you meet that standard.

The system weeds out whimsical candidates.

Everyone says they can toss together crown quals in two weeks. If that were the case, how come people regularly fail to qualify? More to the point, how come people often say they donít have time to run for office? Itís because the system requires a little bit of work to become a candidate. People must think twice before throwing their hats in the ring. This ensures that those who make it through are a little more serious about running, thus weeding out the whimsical candidates who never really had time to run in the first place. Itís one thing to show up to the park and tell people why you should be in office. Itís something else entirely to dedicate your time away from the park to passing Crown Quals. Thatís what proves that someone has the time to be an officer. If all they have time for is Saturdays at the park, they probably ought to let someone else run. This leads us to . . .

We encourage newer generations by limiting the influence of the tired old guard.

As Amtgard groups grow, they invariably develop an old guard of members who become set in their ways. These people typically have strong opinions out of proportion to their energy and time. Because crown quals is a time-consuming process that requires a little work to pass, it reduces the clout this crowd would ordinarily have by virtue of their tenure and loud voices. If they still have the time and energy to devote to our curious and archaic electoral process Ė if their love for the game is strong enough to carry them through Ė then theyíre assets to the club. But if it hasnít, and they donít have the energy, inclination or time to qualify under the current system, what possible argument can be made to create a system that makes it easier for them to run for office? No group in Amtgard that has developed an entrenched old guard has prospered. Crown Quals requires a minimum level of energy from our officers, and this helps keep the game vibrant and strong.

Our artisans are provided with a regular outlet to test their skills.

Sure, sure, we have Olympiad and Dragonmaster. But these events are fairly sporadic. Olympiad is far away. Dragonmaster isnít required. Our groups are, however, required to hold elections. Since Crown Quals is the process the corpora sets out to qualify to run for office, it establishes a cultural contest every six months to showcase the abilities of our artisans. This makes the arts an important and integral part of the game and gives artisans something to look forward to, in much the same way fighters look forward to Weaponmaster. Imagine an Amtgard in which there were no Arts and Sciences Champions. Looking bleak to you? It get worse. Read on.

Crown Quals maintains the flow of new Arts and Sciences stuff into the game.

This oneís obvious. If we have a contest every six month that officers have to enter, and our groups have to have officers, weíre gonna get new stuff every six months. Even if only one person runs for each position, thatís fifteen to twenty new things produced each time Crown Quals is run Ė multiplied by every shire, barony, duchy and kingdom in the game. Thatís the bare mininum. Many groups have contested elections, folks entering who arenít running, or folks who overshoot the requirements. If we get rid of the cultural requirements of Crown Quals, this regular influx of weapon, garb, bardics, and great food will dwindle to nothing. Is having a procedure that checks someoneís speech-giving ability really worth destroying the Arts and Sciences in Amtgard?

Tradition.

A system of policy debates, speeches, event bids and platform presentation might give us better officers. But whatís wrong with the ones we have right now? A litany of the folks who have passed Crown Quals in Amtgard includes some of the finest leaders in the game. When you look at the people who regular pass quals Ė the Grand Dukes of Amtgard Ė the list becomes much more impressive. Our system rewards these people with high office. How, then, has it failed us so badly that it must be dismantled or replaced? The truth is that it hasnít. It isnít broken, itís worked for years, and while it might seem an odd way to decide who can run for office, itís our way and thereís no good reason to change it. Crown Quals are an Amtgard tradition that works.

Crown Quals makes our elections into a grand spectacle.

And this is important. Nobody in Amtgard has time for politics. We play to get away from the real world and its problems. Imagine if our Crown Quals were just a political test to prove that our candidates are good politicians. . . you can probably already feel the disinterest rising among the masses. Instead, our system is full of the pageantry of our Arts and Sciences and capped with a great tournament of arms. Itís a grand event full of all the things that attracted us to Amtgard in the first place. Along the way, we pick a leader. This is exciting stuff and keeps everyone interested.

The Month of the Crown provides a reign with momentum.

Itís a big thing to choose officers the way we do. Itís not the sort of thing you can do in a weekend. Many weeks long, the Month of the Crown is an aptly named event that kicks off not long after midreign and unwinds only when the coronation feast is held. Few people realize it, but this kind of momentum is critical to the success of a reign. It keeps the chapter moving by giving folks things to look forward to. Imagine reigns where not much happened at the park . . . remember how bored and disinterested you became? Now imagine reigns where a lot was planned and how much better it was. Crown Quals, being a time-consuming contest of elections, cultural talent and fighting, sets the minimum level of momentum. A reign without this minimum would be worse than the most boring, lackluster reign youíve ever experienced. Stepping on the brakes of Amtgardís momentum as a club is not worth scrapping the cultural side of crown quals.

By requiring everyone to enter, we make all candidates equal.

We know the argument. Youíve entered quals many times and been in office at least as often. Why, then, should you do it all over again? Youíve proven that you can qualify, havenít you? Well, thereís two things to realize about this argument. The first is that yes, youíve proven you could qualify Ė back then. Things may have changed and your knowledge may no longer be current. Secondly, and more importantly, this is an argument in favor of implementing a leadership class in Amtgard. In each election, youíd have two kinds of people: folks who have to qualify to run, and folks who donít. This means the older members have a built-in advantage on top of their experience and talent, while the newer members have to work that much harder just to get into office. Fair? Absolutely not. This flies in the face of the egalitarian thrust of Amtgard. By forcing even the most crusty Grand Duke crown or serpent knight to run alongside a first-time candidate, we ask all our candidates to pass the same test and thus treat them all equally.

The crown qualification process, with its cultural aspects, certainly isnít a test to show that youíre qualified to be a good leader. Thatís up to the voters and history to decide. Instead, it shows that youíre qualified to be a good Amtgarder. Itís a test of your energy, dedication, time and enthusiasm. Itís a firewall against tyranny and a minimum standard for competency. Itís a traditional celebration of the ideals of our game and an opportunity for the artisans amongst us to shine. In short, itís a picture of all the best our game has to offer, and a calling to those who would lead the club to forever remain an active part of it. Itís Amtgard asking that our leaders play Amtgard over politics. Itís the system that has produced the giants of Amtgard, and like them, itís one of the very pillars of the game. Knock down that pillar at your peril.

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