Wednesday, February 4, 2009

He May Have A Point

“We don’t do as well on these multiple-choice tests,” said Capt. Otis Jordan, president of the Houston Black Firefighters Association. Jordan and the HBFA are not part of the suit. “I compare fighting a fire, riding an apparatus, to playing football. Your best athlete might not be the straight-A student.”
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Source: Houston Chronicle

I think OJ (Otis Jordan) has a point, though it's not what he intended, and it's something that white firefighters would get pilloried for mentioning. The main point is not that blacks are less intelligent than whites; it's that multiple choice tests are probably the least effective means of selecting competent fire officers, especially at the lower ranks.

I've done well on competitive multiple choice examinations, but I admit that the skill set they test has almost nothing to do with whether or not you'd be an effective fire officer. What they test are the skills of rote memorization, dogged perseverance and a certain ability to mindlessly digest mounds of trivia and regurgitate it on command--i.e. a skill set that rewards a certain thick-headed personality type. Consider it a form of affirmative action for bovine bureaucrats.

What makes a good fire officer? Things like: *courage, * quick decision-making ability under pressure,* strong ethics, * people skills, * leadership charisma and, * especially at the lower ranks, raw physical fitness. This is the same skill set that makes a good football quarterback or an infantry platoon leader in the Army.

Defenders of written tests say, "Well, they're fair." To which I say: drawing names out of a hat would be fair. There must be a better way to pick effective fire officers. 

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