Green cheese

Is the moon made of cheese? Cambridge University is asking applicants off-the-wall questions to test their “lateral thinking.”

Actually, the moon one is easy. The answer is: No.

The survey of 1,000 Oxbridge candidates also shows would-be Oxford law students had to compare Timotei and Tesco own-brand shampoos.

No such question would be allowed in the U.S. It discriminates against the bald.

According to the Daily Mail, a candidate wanting to study medicine at Cambridge was told: “Convince me to watch you do a dance performance.”

Oxford University claim their questions are intended to test applicants’ ability to think laterally, form a logical argument and express themselves coherently.

A spokesman said: “It would just be to see how a student reacts to something they haven’t been taught.

God forbid students should be evaluated on whether they’ve learned what they’ve been taught. No, they need to demonstrate substance-free glibness to have a shot at an elite education.

Via Kimberly Swygert, who also reports that conservative students at her alma mater, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, are demanding a commitment to political diversity.

Committee for a Better Carolina (members) . . . say conservative students are uncomfortable and intimidated on a campus that is overwhelmingly liberal, and they want the university to commit to big changes.

First, they will ask (Chancellor James) Moeser to include political affiliation and ideology in the university’s official nondiscrimination policy. They also want the university to devote more money to bring in speakers from a wider variety of ideological perspectives. And they want the university to conduct an investigation into the campus climate for conservatives — similar to the study conducted last year on the atmosphere for gay students.

The group also wants UNC to hire more conservative professors. Don’t hold your breath on that one, guys.

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Comments

  1. Ken Summers says:

    I’m not sure exactly what to think about this. I am a big fan of lateral thinking – many of the great advancements in math and science came from lateral thinking.

    But the specific examples they use are positively “Aristophanes”.*

    *Ten points to anyone who gets that.

  2. Ken Summers says:

    I’m not sure exactly what to think about this. I am a big fan of lateral thinking – many of the great advancements in math and science came from lateral thinking.

    But the specific examples they use are positively “Aristophanes”.*

    *Ten points to anyone who gets that.

  3. Why does this Cambridge thing remind me of a “Monty Python” skit? The one where interviewees for a job are asked completely insane questions, then John Cleese screams a countdown until the interviewee pops out an answer.

    At the end, the interviewee asks if he got the job and Cleese says, “Heavens, no. We filled the position weeks ago. We’ve just kept on with the interviews because it was so much fun.”

  4. Why does this Cambridge thing remind me of a “Monty Python” skit? The one where interviewees for a job are asked completely insane questions, then John Cleese screams a countdown until the interviewee pops out an answer.

    At the end, the interviewee asks if he got the job and Cleese says, “Heavens, no. We filled the position weeks ago. We’ve just kept on with the interviews because it was so much fun.”

  5. Steve LaBonne says:

    Joanne, you had a story on August 16th showing that British universities can no longer count on their applicants having been taught anything in particular (another step in the Americanization of Britain! 😉 ), so what did you expect?

  6. Steve LaBonne says:

    Joanne, you had a story on August 16th showing that British universities can no longer count on their applicants having been taught anything in particular (another step in the Americanization of Britain! 😉 ), so what did you expect?

  7. That reminds me of a time I interviewed for a job as a programmer. The man conducting the interview asked me how I’d wash an elephant. After some thought and much iteration, I outlined a procedure.

    That question has stuck in my mind as a singularly good question, because it made me think of a process that I’d never considered before.

    I mentioned this question at a management training seminar I attended some years back, and was told that it’s not a proper question to ask an applicant. I was told further that asking a question like that could expose the company to employment discrimination lawsuits. It was then that I decided management was not for me.

  8. That reminds me of a time I interviewed for a job as a programmer. The man conducting the interview asked me how I’d wash an elephant. After some thought and much iteration, I outlined a procedure.

    That question has stuck in my mind as a singularly good question, because it made me think of a process that I’d never considered before.

    I mentioned this question at a management training seminar I attended some years back, and was told that it’s not a proper question to ask an applicant. I was told further that asking a question like that could expose the company to employment discrimination lawsuits. It was then that I decided management was not for me.

  9. “Discrimination lawsuits”? Over being asked how to wash an elephant? Sure, as a psychometrician, I’d have hard time green-lighting that item – but what on earth is supposedly discriminatory about it?

    Are some candidates assumed to be unfamiliar with elephants? Ele-phobic? Or is it considered demeaning to ask a female candidate, especially a minority female candidate, to think about washing anything? Is the implication that they’ll be “washerwomen” while the male candidates will be building things and thinking great thoughts?

    Sheesh.

  10. “Discrimination lawsuits”? Over being asked how to wash an elephant? Sure, as a psychometrician, I’d have hard time green-lighting that item – but what on earth is supposedly discriminatory about it?

    Are some candidates assumed to be unfamiliar with elephants? Ele-phobic? Or is it considered demeaning to ask a female candidate, especially a minority female candidate, to think about washing anything? Is the implication that they’ll be “washerwomen” while the male candidates will be building things and thinking great thoughts?

    Sheesh.

  11. Kimberly, the point that the group holding the seminar made was that the question had nothing to do with the job. Apparently, you’re not allowed to ask anything outside that narrow range, and any question that strays from the range could bring charges of unfairness in hiring practices.

    To me, it was a good question. It wouldn’t be the only question I’d ask on an interview, but it’s good way of getting an applicant to think on his feet and outline a process that he’d have a general idea of how to accomplish but no specific, a priori, information.

    The fact that such a seemingly harmless question like that could be actionable — or thought actionable by the powers that be — helped convince me that I wouldn’t make it in management.

  12. Kimberly, the point that the group holding the seminar made was that the question had nothing to do with the job. Apparently, you’re not allowed to ask anything outside that narrow range, and any question that strays from the range could bring charges of unfairness in hiring practices.

    To me, it was a good question. It wouldn’t be the only question I’d ask on an interview, but it’s good way of getting an applicant to think on his feet and outline a process that he’d have a general idea of how to accomplish but no specific, a priori, information.

    The fact that such a seemingly harmless question like that could be actionable — or thought actionable by the powers that be — helped convince me that I wouldn’t make it in management.

  13. Trust me, if there were tests for management, most management wouldn’t be in management.

  14. Trust me, if there were tests for management, most management wouldn’t be in management.

  15. Mark Odell says:

    I regard such “think-on-your-feet” questions as the modern variation on the Machiavellian test of issuing nonsensical orders to one’s underlings just to see how quickly they jump to, or if there is any hesitation instead (based on, heaven forbid, independent thought and judgement).

    The short answer to an interviewer’s demand out of left field like “Convince me to watch you do a dance performance.” is a simple “No”. And if that causes the interviewer to reject you as a candidate, do you really want to work for/with someone whose primary criterion of acceptance evidently is the candidate’s willingness to follow nonsensical orders without question? (Yes, I’m fed up ;-).

    The man conducting the interview asked me how I’d wash an elephant.

    Sounds like the opening of an elephant joke, e.g.:
    Q: What do you do with an elephant with three balls?
    A: Walk him and pitch to the rhino.

    BTW here is the Monty Python sketch referred to above.

  16. Mark Odell says:

    I regard such “think-on-your-feet” questions as the modern variation on the Machiavellian test of issuing nonsensical orders to one’s underlings just to see how quickly they jump to, or if there is any hesitation instead (based on, heaven forbid, independent thought and judgement).

    The short answer to an interviewer’s demand out of left field like “Convince me to watch you do a dance performance.” is a simple “No”. And if that causes the interviewer to reject you as a candidate, do you really want to work for/with someone whose primary criterion of acceptance evidently is the candidate’s willingness to follow nonsensical orders without question? (Yes, I’m fed up ;-).

    The man conducting the interview asked me how I’d wash an elephant.

    Sounds like the opening of an elephant joke, e.g.:
    Q: What do you do with an elephant with three balls?
    A: Walk him and pitch to the rhino.

    BTW here is the Monty Python sketch referred to above.

  17. Sean Duffy says:

    Are odd-ball answers appropriate for such odd-ball questions? It’s all well and good if a candidate oulines a procedure to wash an elephant, but what if their answer is “I’d sell it to the zoo, and they’d wash it.”? Is the candidate creative? Cruel? Money-hungry? Disobedient? Realistic? Mentally Disturbed?

    I’m just saying that asking bizzare questions lends itself to bizzare answers, and bizzare answers can confuse more than they communicate.

  18. Sean Duffy says:

    Are odd-ball answers appropriate for such odd-ball questions? It’s all well and good if a candidate oulines a procedure to wash an elephant, but what if their answer is “I’d sell it to the zoo, and they’d wash it.”? Is the candidate creative? Cruel? Money-hungry? Disobedient? Realistic? Mentally Disturbed?

    I’m just saying that asking bizzare questions lends itself to bizzare answers, and bizzare answers can confuse more than they communicate.