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Guest Vern Edwards

How well can you think?

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Guest Vern Edwards

I read the following in the June 5 issue of The Wall Street Journal in an article entitled, "Exclusive Test Data: Many Colleges Fail to Improve Critical-Thinking Skills," by Douglas Belkin:


Freshmen and seniors at about 200 colleges across the U.S. take a little-known test every year to measure how much better they get at learning to think. The results are discouraging.

At more than half of schools, at least a third of seniors were unable to make a cohesive argument, assess the quality of evidence in a document or interpret data in a table, The Wall Street Journal found after reviewing the latest results from dozens of public colleges and universities that gave the exam between 2013 and 2016.

At some of the most prestigious flagship universities, test results indicate the average graduate shows little or no improvement in critical thinking over four years...

A survey by PayScale Inc., an online pay and benefits researcher, showed 50% of employers complain that college graduates they hire aren’t ready for the workplace. Their No. 1 complaint? Poor critical-reasoning skills.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/exclusive-test-data-many-colleges-fail-to-improve-critical-thinking-skills-1496686662 You might need a subscription to access the article. See also:

"Colleges Are Struggling to Teach Critical Thinking, Tests Show" https://www.inverse.com/article/32590-colleges-not-teach-critical-thinking

"Is College Worth It? Many Students Still Lack Critical Thinking Skills After Completing Higher Education" http://www.newsweek.com/college-value-critical-thinking-test-621671

I am engaged in a bucket list project to read the principal dialogues of Plato. I read some of them in college and after, but slower, deeper reads (and rereads) have been interesting and humbling. I never realized how complicated some of the arguments are if you really try to follow and understand them. Read The Republic, Book II, the short passage from the beginning to the point where Socrates says, "I had always admired the genius of Glaucon and Adeimantus...."


In that passage Glaucon and Adeimantus argue that injustice is better than justice. Glaucon goes first, then his brother Adeimantus. They don't believe their own arguments, They pose them so to prompt Socrates to refute their proposition. Socrates praises them: "There is something truly divine in being able to argue as you have done for the superiority of injustice, and remaining unconvinced by your own arguments." Can you follow their arguments? Can you restate them in brief? Can you confirm or refute them?

Critical thinking is the process of making, analyzing, confirming, and refuting arguments. That, according to the WSJ, is what students are not learning today.

When confronted by what you think is an absurd proposition by a CO, a contractor's or subcontractor's representative, an auditor, a staff reviewer, or a superior, can you analyze their argument, confirm or refute it, or make a better one?

In a recent thread some of us discussed the rules about flowing down clauses from a noncommercial prime contractor to a commercial item subcontractor. The rule is in FAR Subpart 44.4. We were told that the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) is asserting that prime contractors under contracts awarded pursuant to FAR Part 15, as opposed to FAR Part 12, must impose all of the mandatory flowdown clauses in the prime contract to commercial item subcontractors, not just the clauses listed in FAR 52.244-6.

How would you respond to that assertion? A lot rides on questions like that. Maybe the entire future of the contracting "profession." Harvard professor David Eaves, writing a guest entry in Steven Kelman's blog, recently argued that we don't need acquisition reform--we need smarter people. https://fcw.com/blogs/lectern/2017/06/dont-reform-procurement-eaves.aspx?admgarea=TC_Opinion

This is something with which those of you who still face the future of your career field will have to cope.

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