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LAST THURSDAY, on the single morning of their 4,000-day-old lives that decided the quality of their remaining 22,000-odd days (should they live to the TT life expectancy of 70), 19,000 11-year-olds in Trinidad & Tobago sat the Secondary Entrance Assessment; and the trip to MovieTowne after the exam may well mark the high point of their education for all but the handful who will, in September, enter a “prestige school” – meaning, in Trinidad, one where the teachers care more about the children in their classrooms than the rims on their Tiidas.
In sympathy with children whose whole lives may have been thoroughly firetrucked even before their first tentative kiss, I began my own Senility Entrance Assessment last week, with the maths section from a Newsday practice test. Today, I’ll do what we used to call “English” back in the days when we used to try to educate our children, but is now called “language arts”, because we now try to make them feel better about being ignorant. I’ve edited or rewritten questions for length.
Language Arts. Section I.
TASK 1. Correct the six misspelt words: The outer air, the pinna, plays an importent part in how you hear. Its funnel shape and kurves determine the direction of soundes [letting]you know if a sound is comming from behind, in front, above or beelow you. Hmmm. Would children think that somebody in the question is asthmatic because he is “outer air”? And are children really so ignorant nowadays that the examiners have to get drastically heavy metal on them before they suspect a misspelling? Kurves comming from beelow? Is this the Def Leppard/Bizzy Bone-Krayzie Bone/Big Boi/ Ghostface Killah effect? Is there a link to be made between J-Lo and Beelow? Still, it was nice of the examiners to give the more duncey children an even chance of figuring out that either sounde or sound must be misspelled and thereby give them one mark, at least.
TASK 2. Correct the six punctuation/capitalisation mistakes: “Oh no” Dion exclaimed. The coin had rolled under the shelf. sighing, he lay on the floor and peered under the shelf “What are you doing” asked a voice. “The floor is dirty. Startled, Dion scrambled up. Mr ramlal was staring curiously at him. Again, nice of the SEA to omit some obvious full stops and capital letters thereafter and to choose words like “exclaimed” and “asked” to hint at ! and ? marks to throw a few points the dumb kids’ way – but those stupid kids will still think the first mistake was that coins can’t sigh. Also, how clever can the class be when Mr Ramlal, presumably a teacher, can’t figure out what a boy looking under a shelf is doing? Also, that’s a pretty low firetrucking shelf, if Dion has to lay on the floor to look under it. Finally, the examiners should be striving for realism and misspelling important as “impotent”, the way most Trini men do, thinking themselves important when they’re really et cetera et cetera.
TASK 3: Correct the six grammatical errors: Jamel bit he lip as he focused on his target, whom was his sister, Petal, casually open the gate and strolled inside. Jamel took a water balloon from the bucket besides him. As he was about to threw it, Fang knocked him down, since bounding outside to greet Petal. I just know there are going to be kids who “correct” “threw” to “pelt” and “whom” to “which”. Really, we should make up our minds whether we’re examining English or language arts because what we could call “language arts grammar” – which I take to be “the fixed rules governing Creole dialect” would perfectly properly allow Jamel to bite he lip and to take water balloons, too besides. The most serious error, though, is, who the firetruck is Fang? And why would he, whether “since” or not, bound outside to greet Petal whom, it is quite clear, did already stroll een casually?
Right, ignore “fiction” “TASKS” as belonging to the realm of politics. Skip to TASK 6: GRAPHIC TEXT, which I have to present in words, not graphics – and which, I thought, was the whole firetrucking point of “language” arts but perhaps “English” may be all Greek to the SEA: Macy’s School of Dancing offers classes to Dreamy Dancers (3-6 years) on Tuesdays & Thursdays from 5-6pm, to Beat Busters (7-11 years), from 5-6pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and to Fire Feet (12-15 years) from 5-6pm on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Honestly, there really was no need for graphic text here but the examiners must know best; although no one would win prizes for creative writing based on the names of the class groups. Q39. Who is offering the classes? How long is each class? What are the three class levels available? Okay, the Ministry of Education has really firetrucked the SEA up, at least for newspaper columnists; are there really 11-year-old children who can do everything on the Internet, including find all the most explicit and damaging pornography imaginable – but can’t read the most basic chart? They footy well know which tab to click on in Xhamster and PornHub. Q42. Twelve-year-old Nailah has art lessons on Monday and Tuesday evenings. Suggest one day and time for her to attend dance class. The answer is “German mature couple share bi-teen” but I can’t show you the working out in a family journal. Q 43. Suggest one reason why classes are held in the evening? It’s like the examiners are more dunce than the children: they’re all in school during the day!
That’s enough artless language. Time for me to start sharpening pencils and switchblades for my first term at South East Port of Spain Secondary.
BC Pires is living in the past, tense, with a future, imperfect