Posted by: ericgrimsrud | June 27, 2015

An exam for professional aptitude

We hear a lot today about the need for increased testing in our public schools.  The reason for these additional exams is commonly claimed to be to ensure that students are learning properly and that the teachers are doing their jobs. If we do that, however, I would like to see a test of the sort provided below in which the student’s potential for fitting into our country’s various professional opportunities are also assessed.  That multiple choice exam might something like the following.

Question #1:  We commonly use numbers to indicate the relative magnitudes of some quantity of interest.  For example, would 400 of something be greater than  280 of those things.

a) yes      b) no       c) I am not a mathematician

Question #2:  We often use graphs to indicate trends in time.  If you were asked to make a plot of the world’s population from say 0 BC to the present, do you think the line produced by those annual data points would curve upward?

a) yes      b) no      c) I am not a statistician


May Temperature Anomaly

Question #3:  Take a moment to inspect the graph shown above.  It shows the average surface temperatures of the Earth for the months of May over the last 125 years.  From this graph, do you think that the surface temperatures in May have increased over the time span shown?

a) yes     b) no       c)  I am not a meteorologist



Question #4:  Take a moment to inspect the graph shown above.  It indicates the level of CO2 in the background atmosphere over the last 800,000 years.  Be sure to note the very sharp spike at the very right edge of the graph.  This spike began about 160 years ago when our CO2 level was 280 ppm and resulted in the current value of 400 ppm.  Note also the the CO2 level had never previously exceeded 290 ppm during the 800,000 year period shown.  We also know, of course, that the Industrial Age began about 160 years ago.  From these data, would you suspect that the recent surge in background CO2 levels to 400 ppm was caused by mankind’s activities during the Industrial Age?

a) yes     b) no    c)   I am not a geologist

Question #5:   Scientists know that CO2 and the other greenhouse gases in our atmosphere provide an insulating layer or blanket around the surfaces of the Earth.  If you put on a heavier coat, do you think you would get warmer?

a)  yes    b) no      c) I am not a physician

Question #6:  This exam has admittedly been heavily weighted toward scientific competency, so let’s finish with a question from the humanities.  Some think that the country of England is older than the United States of America.  Do you agree with that statement?

a) yes   b)  no   c)  I am not an historian


OK, that is the end of the test and the question now is how do we grade it.  In doing that we must now recognize that the “answer key” depends on where and how the students will fit into the needs of our society and for that reason there should be three different answer keys, as related below:

If we want to produce students that will fit into any one of the following professions – medicine, nursing, pharmacy, optometry, law, dentistry, engineering, construction, research science, insurance, veterinary science, real estate, plumber, acting, janitor, bank teller, auctioneer, hair dresser, electrician, plumber, dancing, forestry, hotel management, coaching, art, music, economics, computer technology, journalist, architecture, business owner, sales, journalism, education, military, farming, mental heath care, airline pilots, social work, ministry, librarian, and homemaking – then the students who answered (a) to each question should be steered towards any of those professions and given scores of 100%.

All is not lost, however, for the others.  For those who selected (c) for all of the questions will find that they are well suited for and indeed needed by the controlling political party of our country – the GOP.  Note, for example, that the present leaders of the House (John Boehner) and the Senate (Mitch McConnell) are both from the GOP and, when asked about their views of the global warming problem both responded with “I am not a scientist”.  Thus, those who answered (c) on all questions will feel right at home in the modern GOP and should be able to find political positions at all levels of government.

In addition, there is also a great future within the GOP for those somewhat braver soles who chose (b) for answers to all of the question.  The present Chairman of the Senate’s Committee on Environment and Public Works is none other than James “its all a big hoax” Inhofe, a prominent GOP leader from Oklahoma.  In running the environmental programs of the USA from his office, he is going to need more than “a few good men” in order to carry out his objectives.

So there you go. There will be jobs for everyone in the future. Some will find employment in the traditional professions and others in the “new age” ones being created by our present GOP leadership. In signing off, I will also admit that we will surely need our very best and brightest to fill positions in these new age professions. How, for example, are we going to reduce the levels of CO2 in our atmosphere by developing ever more sources of fossil fuels? And I am sorry that I can be of no help with that one.  I am not a magician.


  1. Loved the “test”. I just hope the GOP doesn’t become top heavy. Good fun, but serious too. Miss you guys.

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