October 8, 2013

I took the FSOT

Posted in career, education tagged , , at 6:53 pm by weiszguy

I took the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT) on this weekend. The FSOT is the entrance exam for people who want to work in the Foreign Service, i.e., work in embassies and consulates in other countries. I don’t have the results yet, they said to expect results in 3-4 weeks.

The test is in four parts: job knowledge, biographical information, English expression, and the essay.

The job knowledge section was the hardest. Dozens of 4-choice multiple choice questions, covering history, geography, politics, economics, computers, and probably several other topics. The questions were difficult because many of the answers were very similar. I took several practice tests and was scoring in the mid-80s. The real test felt very similar to these practice tests, so my real score is probably similar.

The hardest section was the biographical information section. Again, dozens of multiple choice questions, this time about yourself. For example, how many times in the last six months have people come to you for help resolving a personnel issue? 0,1,2,3,4,5. If you answer anything other than zero, you have to list the specific incidents. This one in completely impossible to get a feel for. I decided it was best not to be humble, but not to stretch the truth either. I answered truthfully, but there’s no way to know exactly what they’re looking for. Don’t try to game this one.

The English expression portion of the test was the most difficult. You have  several paragraphs of text, with certain words or phrases underlined. You have to pick the best substitution for the underlined portions, from a list of substitutions. The test measures your grasp of the English language. I wish I would have had more time to think through all the choices, but I think I did alright anyway.

Of all the sections of the test, the essay was the most difficult. You have thirty minutes, including the time it takes to read the prompt (which is itself a small essay) and think of responses. THIS IS NOT MUCH TIME, although I suppose if you had more time, you would just think and type slower. I was able to come up with three points, and intro and conclusion, and beautiful transitions between them all. I don’t know if any of it made sense, but they kept saying they were looking only at the structure of the essay, and not the content. I went right down to the wire, finishing with seconds left on the clock. Also, typing QWERTY rather than Dvorak would be a big help.


January 20, 2011

value of a college education

Posted in career, education tagged at 6:13 pm by weiszguy

College isn’t for everyone. So many people go to college without knowing why. They go just because that’s what you’re supposed to do after high school. But they don’t have a goal in mind – there is nothing that they are trying to do that requires the college education.

So they end up wasting several years of their lives while racking up astronomical debt that they can’t repay because they don’t know what they want to do.

Now add to that this study that shows a large chuck of the college population isn’t even learning anything.


If you are finishing high school and you don’t know what you want to do – DON’T GO TO COLLEGE!  Kill some time, goof off, join the military, work in the family business, start your own business – heck, get a job flipping burgers. After you’ve done that for a while you’ll probably have some idea what you want to do. But whatever you do, don’t go to college unless you can tell me in two sentences why you’re going.

March 28, 2009

the value of books

Posted in education, philosophy, poetry, travel tagged , at 5:08 pm by weiszguy

Reading is priceless.  Books can take you anywhere – to new lands or new planets, in the past, present, or future.  You can experience more adventures than possible in real life alone.  Try sailing the seven seas, or exploring the center of the earth, or navigating the intricacies of Martian society.  Conjure up spells, ferret out unknown truths, or simply discover our own historical past.

I have run into variations on this idea countless times.  Every time someone is extolling the virtues of books, something like the above quote will come out.  Recently I heard it again in the movie Inkheart.  (A great movie.  See it.)

I too am a lover of books, and of reading.  But I shudder everytime I hear books beatified in this way.  It seems escapist, overly entertainment-oriented, and artsy-fartsy, all at the same time.  The purpose of reading isn’t so you can get away and have fun in la-la land.  These things are secondary to the real purpose of reading.  There is much more value in reading than travelling and having fun experiences.

  • From Frodo (Lord of the Rings) I learned the importance of diligence and a sense of mission.
  • From Ben Franklin I learned how far a person can go when given so little in life.
  • From John Grisham I learned the importance of being able to spin a good yarn.  And the futility of trying to live outside the law.
  • From John Carter (A Princess of Mars) I learned the value of superhuman strength and devastatingly good looks.
  • From Hester Prynne and Arther Dimmesdale (The Scarlet Letter) I learned the importance of staying within sexual norms.
  • From Mr. Wickham (Pride and Prejudice) I learned the value of social skills and norms and the danger inherent in transgressing them.
  • From Edmond Dantes (The Count of Monte Cristo) I learned how gratifying revenge can be, and how hollow.
  • From Jason Stevens (The Ultimate Gift) I learned that it’s not about me.  Nothing is about me.  And the sooner I can grasp that truth, the easier things will go for me.
  • From Stephen King I learned the value of following my imagination where ever it leads.
  • From Laura Ingalls Wilder I learned the vital importance of a strong family surrounding me, and the value of providing a strong family to surround my kids.

I could go on, but I hope my point is starting to emerge.  The value of reading is not in travelling to exotic lands.  The value in reading is how the story affects me.  How am I different – better even – for having read that story?  I have lived the lives of many people, just in the short amount of reading I’ve done.  I’ve learned something from all these lives, and I can apply these things to my own situation.

In short, I am a better person (I hope) because of the experiences in these books.  I do not have to make all the mistakes these characters have made, because, in a sense, I have already made them.  I can see the damage those mistakes have caused.  I can see the immediate and future effects of decisions those characters have made, and I can use that knowledge when I come to a similar decision point in my own life.

The fact that I got to travel to exotic lands is just icing on the cake.

February 3, 2009

how not to fix schools

Posted in education tagged at 5:13 pm by weiszguy

We pulled our kids out because the system is broken.  Now, Rapid City thinks “the system is broken” is a good line for luring us back in.

I don’t believe grouping kids together with their peers and isolating them from the rest of the community is a good way to bring them up.  And begging me to send my kids back so the school can have more money is insane.

March 26, 2008

do parents need to be ‘certified’?

Posted in education, parenting tagged , at 3:38 pm by weiszguy

This editorial from the Wall Street Journal addresses the recent debacle out of California: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120614130694756089.html

Do parents really need to be certified to teach their children?  What would a parent need to do to get certified?  Show mastery of educational history?  Understand classroom management techniques?  Attend seminars designed to show teachers how to teach homosexuality?

I’m not a certified teacher, but I can read, which means I don’t have any trouble following any of the thousands of pre-planned lessons available to anyone who wants them.  I also love my children, which means I care enough to make sure they know how to be respectful, how to be honest, and how to stand up for what is right, in addition to the 3 Rs.

The California case involves a couple who allegedly abused their children.  If true, that is a shame.  There are laws against child abuse, and when abuse occurs the children ought to be helped and the parents dealt with.  But remind me what this has to do with homeschooling?

There is no cause and effect relationship between school and child abuse. Any parent, regardless of the educational status of their children, can abuse their children.  Using the logic of the California court, we could just as easily pull all abused children out of public school, because, who knows, maybe the school is causing the parents to abuse the children?  And let us not forget, many, many children are abused by their public school teachers.  Why don’t we require those children to be removed from the schools?

Like the writer of the WSJ editorial, I would like to know where the presidential candidates stand on homeschooling.  Specifically, do they believe parents need to be certified in order to teach their children?  The answer to that one question would go a long way toward helping me make up my mind in November.

January 15, 2008

biting the hand that feeds you

Posted in education tagged , , at 5:32 am by weiszguy

Who in the public school system is teaching that government should be less involved in the lives of it’s citizens?  Which teacher is teaching that schools should be less well-funded and smaller?  What student is being taught that capitalism is a superior form of government than socialism?

These are all valid points of view, but you will not find them taught – or even mentioned – in public schools.  If you have any form of political, religious, or social views that are outside the current norm, you have no hope of having those views taught to your kids in public schools.

Schools receive their funding from the government.  You will not find opposing viewpoints taught there.  That would be like a Coca-Cola executive saying people should drink less Coke.  It doesn’t happen, it doesn’t make sense that it should happen, we should not expect it to ever happen.

All of which are good arguments for homeschooling.

July 9, 2007

The Way I See It #202

Posted in education, Starbucks at 9:13 am by weiszguy

With every generation of children comes the hope for a better world – but only through the provision of education for all.  The millions of children who never see the inside of a school are a loss to all humanity.
– Charlie MacCormack, President and CEO of Save the Children

I can agree that education provides the hope for a better world.  I can agree that education for all is a noble goal.  I cannot agree that a child must see the inside of a school to be educated.  In fact, I might go so far as to say that a child who only receives education from a school (as popularly defined), is not really educated at all.  Mr. MacCormack’s error is equating education with school.