There's a tempest in a teapot going on in New York over a standardized test that was given to 8th graders recently. Apparently, it's a test that's in use around the country with similar results: the students (usually about 13 or 14, I guess - though an unintended side effect of being homeschooled is that a little difficult for me to translate grades to ages off-hand) are totally baffled by this story.
I'm going to write out the story because I think it'll add to the point. It's an adaptation of a Daniel Pinkwater children's story included his his novel "Borgel". In the test, the directions are to read this story and then answer questions 6 - 11.
The Hare and the Pineapple
In olden times, the animals of the forest could speak English just like you and me. One day, a pineapple challenged a hare to a race. (I forgot to mention, fruits and vegetables were able to speak too).
A hare is like a rabbit, only skinnier and faster. This particular hare was known to be the fastest animal in the forest.
"You, a pineapple, have the nerve to challenge me, a hare, to a race?" the hare asked the pineapple. "This must be some sort of joke."
"No," said the pineapple. "I want to race you. Twenty-six miles, and may the best animal win."
"You aren't even an animal!" the hare said. "You're a tropical fruit!"
"Well, you know what I mean," the pineapple said.
The animals of the forest thought it was very strange that a tropical fruit should want to race a very fast animal.
"The pineapple has some trick up its sleeve," a moose said.
"Pineapples don't have sleeves," an owl said.
"Well, you know what I mean," the moose said. "If a pineapple challenges a hare to a race, it must be that the pineapple knows some secret trick that will allow it to win."
"The pineapple probably expects us to root for the hare and then look like fools when it loses," said a crow. "Then the pineapple will win the race because the hare is overconfident and takes a nap, or gets lost, or something."
The animals agreed that this made sense. There was no reason a pineapple should challenge a hare unless it had a clever plan of some sort. So the animals, wanting to back a winner, all cheered for the pineapple.
When the race began, the hare sprinted forward and was out of sight in less than a minute. The pineapple just sat there, never moving an inch.
The animals crowded around, watching to see how the pineapple was going to cleverly beat the hare. Two hours later, when the hare crossed the finish line, the pineapple was still sitting still, and hadn't moved an inch.
The animals ate the pineapple.
MORAL: Pineapples don't have sleeves.
6.) Beginning with paragraph 4, in what order are the events in the story told?
A Switching back and forth between places
B In the order in which events happen
C Switching back and forth between the past and the present
D In the order in which the hare tells the events to another animal
7.) The animals ate the pineapple most likely because they were
8.) Which animal spoke the wisest words?
A The hare
B The moose
C The crow
D The owl
9.) Before the race, how did the animals feel toward the pineapple?
10.) What would have happened if the animals had decided to cheer for the hare?
A The pineapple would have won the race.
B They would have been mad at the hare for winning.
C The hare would have just sat there and not moved.
D They would have been happy to have cheered for a winner.
11.) When the moose said that the pineapple has some trick up its sleeve, he means that the pineapple
A is wearing a disguise
B wants to show the animals a trick
C has a plan to fool the animals
D is going to pull something out of its sleeve
Now, according to the New York Times, the overwhelming reaction of students to this test was one of bafflement. Students were apparently raising their hands saying things like, "This story doesn't make sense!" Some were made nervous by the "jokiness" of the story and started overthinking the test questions.
Here's a quote from the article (which can be read HERE)
One of the disputed questions asked, essentially, which was the wisest animal. Some students said that none of the animals seemed very bright, but that a likely answer was the owl, because it was the one that uttered the moral.
Others worried that the owl was a distraction, because owls are supposed to be wise, so it would be the wrong answer.
The other tough question was why the animals ate the pineapple. Students were torn between two of the four choices: they were annoyed or they were hungry; either one seemed to work.
It took a class of gifted students to decide firmly that the owl was the wisest and that the animals ate the pineapple because they were annoyed. And then the school district decided the answers to this particular set of questions wouldn't be included in the test results because so many people complained about how silly the test was. Many people who are against standardized testing have jumped on board, saying the story was so nonsensical that it can't accurately measure how intelligent the 13 and 14 year olds really are because it's too hard to figure out.
Don't get me wrong: I don't think current teach-to-the-test methods being employed in public schools are doing kids much of a favor in regards to their actual education; but personally, I find the fact the kids couldn't figure this story out a little disturbing. I tried my sister Katherine on it and she aced the answers. Katherine is 11. Apparently she's a genius.
You know what I think? The irony in this whole situation is that the students, when confronted with this nonsense little parody on the tortoise and the hare did exactly what the animals in the story did. They worried that the test had something up its sleeve and over-thought the answers to the point where they got all confused. And in the end, they've essentially eaten the pineapple by getting rid of any questions having to do with the story because they were too "silly" and hard to figure out.
Pineapples don't have sleeves. And neither did this test.
Wife of Benjamin and mother to two wonderful little girls who are getting bigger every day. Enjoys writing down thoughts and discussions we are having within the family and sharing them with whoever is interested in reading.
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