Mandatory CE: Good? Bad? Ugly?

Ever since continuing education was made mandatory for insurance agents (does anyone remember what year that was?), a question keeps coming up every time we “educators” get together, which we did recently at the IIABA Education Convocation in Minneapolis.  The question is a simple one: “Has mandatory CE helped or hurt?” Do agents take CE classes because they want the information or to simply fulfill the 24 hour CE requirement?
I suppose the answer to that question depends on who you ask.

When I got into the agency business in 1981, there was no mandatory CE requirement in North Carolina. Yet I still took CE classes – imagine that! I probably even took enough courses to give me at least 12 hours per year. There weren’t as many designations available then (CIC, CPCU and maybe a few others), but there were classes offered on coverage topics that I was interested in taking to stay informed on changes in the industry. I remember many trips to the old IIANC building on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh to hear John Young, John Henderson and other great instructors teaching great courses. 

When mandatory CE was introduced, I believe it did have one very positive effect:  it probably weeded out a lot of “agents” who likely shouldn’t have been agents in the first place and who were not interested in continuing to sell insurance if it meant they actually had to learn something about it. But, does anyone out there feel that there is a downside to mandatory CE? Has it turned CE into a “commodity” whereby an agent who completes his/her 24 hours of credits thinks “That’s it, now I’m done” and may not take a class that would benefit them simply because they “don’t need the hours”? 

Do we take CE because we NEED to or because we WANT to? I would love to hear your thoughts.