Saturday, 29 August, 2020 Filed in: TGIF
LAST THURSDAY, 18,000 11-year-olds sat the Secondary Entrance Assessment, all trying to get into one of the very few “prestige schools” in the country, in the hope of staying out of a fry-guy gig at Prestige Holdings Ltd, purveyors of KFC.
In sympathy, then, with children who wanted to grow up to become CEOs but may end up at CEPEP, I began, last Friday, my own Somehow Escape Alzheimers’ exam with the maths segment of a Newsday practice test. Today, I attempt what we used to call the “English” paper, until we realised there was considerably more self-esteem and inversely proportionally less work involved if we changed its name to “language arts”. As with the maths paper last week, I’ve shortened the questions considerably because SEA writing style is not particularly languaged-ly-artful.
Language Arts. Section I.
Task 1. Correct the six spelling mistakes: It is useful to plant flours that attract bees, birds and butterflyes. These pollinators make a gardin lively. To protect them, exercise caushon when useing toxick chemicals? The spelling mistakes are obvious but you have to look for the cultural/identity politics ones. Clearly, eg, it should not be butter-flyes, but vegan spread- or non-saturated-fat-spread-flyes. On the same basis, it must be, not the gardin, the guard-in the garden who’s getting lively with a mysterious unnamed woman, who must be looking for some toxick. There is, though, one real spelling mistake to correct, in that, yes, they should definitely use a cushion. The prickers, you see, the prickers.
Task 2. Correct the six grammar errors: Simon were pulling out weeds from the garden when a young, thin boy stopped on front the gate with a bicycle. The boy greet him and asked, “Would you likes to buy a few pepper, Sir?” Simon detested the taste of pepper, but he decided to supported the boy. Nice of the examiners to give the students a sporting chance of figuring out, from Task 2, that “garden” was misspelt in Task 1 but, again, there are far more cultural than grammatical errors: why is the boy thin, if it is not a clumsy attempt to avoid fat-shaming him? It also says something about the examiners’ identity politics (and, en passant, a great deal about their vocabulary), that they think that “supporting” means “purchasing something you don’t want out of a vague sense of co-sufferer obligation”. Finally, and most mysteriously, why does the gate have a firetrucking bicycle? Perhaps it belongs to the mystery woman from Task 1.
Task 3. Correct the six punctuation or capitalisation errors: Trinidad & Tobago has two seasons the dry season and the wet season. the dry season is from January to May, characterised by hot dry weather. The wet season is from June to december, within which is the hurricanes season. flooding may occur during this time? There are a couple o’ what the Americans call “gimmes” in here, like December needing a big D, and flooding, a big F, but I feel I am myself heading for the big F — making the probably safe assumption that we are now copying student grades from the Americans, the way we copy everything from the US, from A-to-Zee (not-Zed), down to Black Lives Matter. (In our case, though, it is Black Lives Matter with an asterisk, adding on “except in Morvant-Laventille”.)
As in Tasks 1 & 2, the “language arts” errors are easy to spot, except for one, which could be two: the answers booklet says the first punctuation mistake is that there should be a colon after “seasons” the first time it appears in the sentence, but it could also be a comma — as the very next sentence in the task proves, with the comma in “May, characterised by etc”.
Again, you have to squint to see the massive cultural error, which is that the last sentence should not read, “flooding may occur during this time” but, “Flooding will certainly occur over-and-over-again for almost all of this time every time it rains for five minutes”. There is a necessary cultural correction to be made by continuing the sentence, “…and farmers will claim compensation from the state greater than the market value of the crops they claim to have lost, assuming they’d planted any firetrucking crops at all”.
Changes to the SEA have made it impossible to do, in a newspaper column, section two of the SEA, the “comprehension”, or to write what used to be “the essay” but is now, regrettably, “ELA — presumably English Language Arts — Writing”, subdivided into “Narratives vs Reports” and “The Writing Process”.
Which narrative leads to the unavoidable report that this writing process will not lead to any form of progress.
That’s enough SEA. Time to pack my book-bag for the School of Hard Knocks.
BC Pires is a dunce with Newsday