I’ll agree with you that the practical knowledge of Stability is diminished these days, but I don’t think that is on the Coast Guard.
We really don’t spend that much of our lives in the testing room at the REC, what we study just to pass a test or series of tests will be much more quickly forgotten than the things we practice over and over again while doing our jobs. I don’t know if I would pass the Stability exam if given it right this minute, but I know I could pass it if you gave me three hours to study for it. Very few people fail the Chief Mate tests after taking the month long study classes for it. If the test was harder, you could just make the study classes for it longer and most people would still pass the tests, and still forget much of what they learned within a few years.
The things we develop great knowledge and skill at are the things we have to do over and over again at work. In my case that would be SMS paperwork, vessel inspections, details of the overtime section of the SIU contract, 400+ reefers to check daily, answering ridiculous e-mails from the office about crap that doesn’t matter, checking 100+ page dangerous cargo manifests, motivating people to do the job they are paid to do, checking to make sure they actually do it . . . etc.
I’m interested in Stability, if my list changes noticeably after changing course or a wind shift I time my roll period and see if it matches my GM, but it isn’t the Coast Guard’s fault if I have forgotten some of the formulas I haven’t used in years. If my GM on Loadstar is 1m or more and the ship isn’t behaving oddly I just don’t have enough time in the day to ponder it.
Though sometimes when dealing with colleagues in both the wheelhouse and the engine room I wonder if we might be better off if we all had to retake the full licensing exam every time we renew.