Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Testing 1 ... 2 ... 3 ... Testing

Are you one of those people who used to suffer test anxiety? Me too, kinda. My anxiety was less about performance and more about making it to the test on time. Once and only once did I miss an exam. Who knows what I was doing instead, but it was a good day or two before I even realized I'd missed my final. I was able to talk myself into a make-up exam but to this day I still have nightmares about missing important obligations. Well, how 'bout some tests you can take at your leisure?

You may know that the web is full of all kinds of cutesy little tests—which celebrity are you most like, what your hairstyle means, etc. I'm sure that stuff is very, very important. Sometime when my time is more valuable, i.e. when I'm gainfully employed again and need some way to waste company time, I'll be sure and let you know what I find. Meanwhile, I thought we'd stick to the high road. For your pleasure, I've got some edifying tests that allege to reveal all kinds of stuff about you, and only one that may make you feel stupid. Let's start there. If you haven't been feeling good about yourself lately, you'll wanna skip it unless geography is your forté. It's not mine though I didn't do too bad. (Where in the hell is Delaware? I know it's on the east coast.)

If you think you can find Delaware . . . or the Red Sea for that matter, try this "GeoQuiz" on for size. I took the United States quiz and didn't fare too poorly. The only states I couldn't find were all those tiny ones—Rhode Island (sorry, Ben), Delaware, and a couple whose names I can't even remember now, let alone find them on the map. That's sad, I know. It was only minutes ago that I took the test. Oh, well. The only drawback to this site is that it doesn't really say what your what your score means. For example, I got 138 out 150, which would be 92% if we were still in school? Is that an A-? Dunno. There's no pithy statement to explain how well I did or didn't do. I guess they figure if you're geographically challenged you already know it, and you don't need your face rubbed in it.

Since religion was indirectly a hot topic on this blog last week, I find it appropo to mention the Belief-O-Matic quiz. The quiz professes to tell you which of 26 faiths most closely matches your religious beliefs. According to their test, my beliefs most closely match those of Unitarian Universalism (100%), followed closely by those of Neo-Pagans (96%) and Liberal Quakers (93%). My beliefs least match Eastern Orthodox (21%) and Roman Catholic (21%) doctrines. To be honest, I don't know what the hell I believe anymore. (Possibly more on that later.) They present their definitions of the faiths they selected, so you can find out just what a Neo-Pagan or a Sikh believes or what the differences are between Mahayana and Theravada Buddhists.

If "religion" is a dirty word to you, you can size up your spiritual type instead. On a scale that ranges from "Candidate for Clergy" to "Hardcore Skeptic," my responses fell somewhat in the middle at "Spiritual Straddler," i.e. "one foot in traditional religion and one in free-form spirituality." In other words, I'm confused. Just kidding . . . sort of. Actually, I would say "straddler" is a pretty accurate description.

Both quizes are provided by Beliefnet.com, an independent, nondenominational entity that let's it be known that "we are not affiliated with a particular religion or spiritual movement. We are not out to convert you to a particular approach, but rather to help you find your own. Fundamental to our mission is a deep respect for a wide variety of faiths and traditions." By and large they do a nice job. These types of things are always problematic—the questions themselves or the way they're phrased; the set of possible answers to a question or the way the answers are phrased; what's left unasked; how the test is scored; what the results really mean; etc. But overall, I found it an interesting way to spend ten minutes and get my mind thinking about some things. That goes for all the quizes herewith profiled. That said, for more of Beliefnet's "soul surveys" as they call them, inc. ("what kind of " Jew, Hindu, Muslim, or Catholic are you), as well as mediations and links to prayer circles, their web site is worth checking out.

You can rest assured in this country that where there's church, state won't be too far behind. That's another little joke. Heh. I believe it was the Libertarians, "advocates for self government" that they are—who came up with the original "World's Smallest Political Quiz." I couldn't be bothered to read the short history of the quiz, anxious as I was to find out about me, me, me. According to this ten-question quiz, I'm a centrist. Like Beliefnet.com, the Advocates have plenty of additional info so if you land a label that means. Being a centrist means I espouse a "middle ground" regarding government control of the economy and personal behavior. Depending on the issue, I sometimes favor government intervention and sometimes support individual freedom of choice or so they tell me. It seems that I pride myself on keeping an open mind, tend to oppose "political extremes," and emphasize what they say I describe as "practical" solutions to problems. I do, I do, I do, I do, I do. Sing it!, then follow the red dot below. nothing to you, you can brush up right there and then.

Not to be outdone, a duo calling themselves Political Compass decided to get in on the testing action, too. Devised by a journalist and an academic social historian, both influenced by Freud's protege Wilhelm Reich and the German critic Theodor Adorno among others, the test is longer than the aforementioned one, with a wider range of questions. The one that made me laugh for some reason is "When you are troubled, it's better not to think about it, but to keep busy with more cheerful things." It reminded me of the scene in Farenheit 9/11, where Dubya continues storytime with the children while the Twin Towers burn. Don't get the wrong idea, though. Most of the questions are somewhat more probing than that particular one, and perhaps moreso than the preceeding sites, I encourage you to spend some time here.

In essence, the Political Compass is represented by a four-quadrant system that looks like this:

Note the plotting of the economic and social dimensions on top of the traditional linear range of leftist views vs. right. The two fellows suggest:

"By adding the social dimension you can show that Stalin was an authoritarian leftist (i.e. the state is more important than the individual) and that Gandhi, believing in the supreme value of each individual, is a liberal leftist. . . .You can also put Pinochet, who was prepared to sanction mass killing for the sake of the free market, on the far right as well as in a hardcore authoritarian position. On the non-socialist side you can distinguish someone like Milton Friedman, who is anti-state for fiscal rather than social reasons, from Hitler, who wanted to make the state stronger, even if he wiped out half of humanity in the process.

The chart also makes clear that, despite popular perceptions, the opposite of fascism is not communism but anarchism (i.e. liberal socialism), and that the opposite of communism (i.e. an entirely state-planned economy) is neo-liberalism (i.e. extreme deregulated economy)."

The result is a reading of economic analysis across the horizontal axis and a gauge of social beliefs from authoritarian to libertarian along the vertical axis. I ended up right where I think I belong, with the Dalai Lama, not the Pope. (My exact numbers should you like to compare with your own were Economic Left/Right -7.94, Social Libertarian/Authoritarian -5.16. These numbers will makes sense when you see how the scoring is done).

The Political Compass is definitely a fun site to poke around; check it out when you have time to really dig into it. The site introduction is informative, and the "Iconochasm" quiz, (the link is midway down the green sidebar on the left side of their web site), gives you the opportunity to match quotes to the speaker, which isn't as easy as it looks at first glance. I got most of them wrong. The FAQ is worth a read, and they even have a grid of the 2004 U.S. presidential candidates. I especially appreciated the inclusion of a suggested reading list for each of the four quads so you can be on the same page as your bretheren. All in all, it's a pretty interesting web site, even if you find yourself disagreeing with any of the methodology.

Last but not least, if you just can't get enough, go try the Neocon quiz to find out if you too are an empire builder! Like the geography quiz, you probably know where you stand but what the heck, don't be a party pooper! You might be an Isolationist, Liberal, Realist, or Neoconservative. Can you guess what I am? I'll give you a hint: just call me Woodrow or Jimmy. There go any political aspirations I might have had.


Blogger Chalicechick said...

You're totally welcome to come check UUism out any time.

A UU frequently to be found at beliefnet.

4:04 AM  

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