Saturday, April 28, 2012

A Pineapple With a Plan

New York middle schoolers were baffled by a state standardized test that included questions based on a story . . .  in which a talking pineapple challenges a hare to a race in an enchanted forest, then fails to move and is eaten by animals. “The story seems to have been written,” said Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings, “during a peyote trip.”
                                                                 (Harpers Magazine, Weekly Review, April 23, 2012)

 (Here's the pineapple story, followed by the test questions.)

"The Hare and the Pineapple" (by Daniel Pinkwater)

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 cross 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

1. In what order are the events in the story told?
A) switching back and forth between places
B) In the order in which the 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

2. The animals ate the pineapple most likely because they were:
A) Hungry
B) Excited
C) Annoyed
D) Amused

3. Which animal spoke the wisest words?
A) The hare
B) The moose
C) The crow
D) The owl

4. Before the race, how did the animals feel toward the pineapple?
A) Suspicious
B) Kindly
C) Sympathetic
D) Envious

5. 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.

6. 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 put something out of its sleeve

The envelope, please. And the correct answers are . . . 

1. sub specie aeternitatis, or "Spinoza" time, in which motion is illusory, apparent only to finite intellects, already accomplished in the Infinite Intellect, and in principle a Zenonic paradox

2. either they were still high on peyote or trying to figure out what "your moment of Zen" means

3. the Canadian province of Ontario, which decided that a man need not have his penis removed in order to be legally considered female

 "Oh, you were surprised?"

4. epistemically challenged, since they couldn't identify the vocal organs of a pineapple

5. the pineapple would have filed a lawsuit on the grounds of "speciesism"

6.  could never get through an airport checkpoint because in "TSA World" it could be anything

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