Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Independent Thinking

I remember in grade school the teachers always encouraged independent thought. They wanted you to ask questions, think critically of the material, and try to find and solve any problems. Except poetry. I swear, no matter how often I tried to interpret Frost, Dickinson, or any other great American poet I was always wrong. Eventually I gave up; I followed the same ol’ format everyone else did and wrote horrible little poems involving stereotypical flowers.

Some days it felt like that.

College was different though. On the first day of English 101, my professor let us out within the first ten minutes of class… so that we could go somewhere on campus and just watch. Ah, yes, talk about well-spent education dollars! However, as a freshman, it was a great way to start college: sitting by one of the many fountains on campus, writing down what I saw, enjoying the sunny day. It was calming – until I had to turn in the assignment. I was afraid of what the Professor would say of my writing. Did I write about the right topic? Was my grammar correct? Did I misinterpret the meaning of the ripples in the fountain?

Luckily, I had one of the best professors my school had to offer. He encouraged actual independent thought and creativity. The everyday A-B A-B A-A rhyme style bothered him, as did anything remotely close to “a rose by any other name.” The whole semester consisted of breaking habits we had formed in grade school, such as trying to write to please the teacher instead of to please ourselves. Granted, he did want us to try to be appropriate and to follow the guidelines, but the more creative it was, the happier he became. He loved teaching his students that whatever they wrote could be art; they just needed to trust themselves.

He looks so snazzy in his suit.

I was thought of this professor the other day as I was browsing a news site and came across an article discussing Joe Lieberman and a new contracting committee. As some of you are aware, Senator Lieberman (I) is the chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. On Friday, January 30, 2009, he created a sub-committee that will oversee federal contracting and named Senator Claire McCaskill (D) from Missouri as the chairwoman. He hopes that this committee will prevent governmental monetary waste and contracting fraud.

I can’t help but wonder what this mean for small business contractors. The DoD, DoJ or any other section of the federal government isn’t going to stop offering contracts to companies strictly because of this new committee. If anything, it will help prevent larger corporations from asking for excessive dollar amounts or adding extra clauses to contracts, which can give smaller businesses more of an opportunity. Senator Lieberman’s struggle to shift the thought processes on government contracting and replace them with something different and less corrupt by traditional thought made me think of my English professor. He wants someone new – your small business – to have the opportunity to display your product to the government, letting out your creativity, without the constraints traditionally associated with government contracting. Lieberman’s committee will not hinder the amount of contracts awarded; if anything, I think it will increase the amount small businesses receive.

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