Tuesday, December 04, 2007

SAT's for candidates...

John Allen Paulos (oddly, not an assassin or poet) thinks America's Numero Uno should be able to demonstrate some minimal competence with logic and numbers. How radical is that!!
Big high-tech corporations such as Google and Microsoft as well as a host of smaller ones routinely utilize puzzles in their hiring practices. The rationale for this is the belief that an employee, say a programmer of some sort, is more likely to contribute in a creative, insightful way to the company if they're creative and insightful when presented with a complex puzzle.

Why then are candidates for the presidency never presented with a few simple puzzles to help the electorate gauge their cognitive agility? The same goes for interviewers who ask the same dreary, insipid questions time after time and accept the same dreary, insipid non-answers time after time.

Sample prob:
3. Sequencing. A president must think about how to gain support for an idea or policy. Some things must be accomplished before other things can be attempted. Legislative backing, popular opinion, domestic and international issues must be dealt with in a reasonable order if an administration is going to be successful. Steps can't be skipped with impunity.
A simple, yet abstract problem of this type? How about the following (answer on page 4): It's very dark and four mountain climbers stand before a very rickety rope bridge that spans a wide chasm. They know the bridge can only safely hold two people and that they possess only one flashlight, which is needed to avoid the holes in the bridge. For various reasons one of the hikers can cross the bridge in 1 minute, another in 2 minutes, a third in 5 minutes and the fourth, who's been injured, in 10 minutes. Alas, when two people walk across the bridge, they can only go as fast as the slower of the two hikers. How can they all cross the bridge in 17 minutes? [More]

I don't think he's asking too much, but similar tests should be administered to Congresshumans as well. It might mean farm bills that actually make arithmetic sense or even cost estimates vaguely close to reality.

(Lessee, carry the one and multiply by...)

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