Wednesday, January 9, 2013

I Don't Care If It's a Logical Fallacy

Now that the holidays are over, I’m back to helping my youngest child, a high school junior, prepare for the SAT. Lately, we’ve been working on the SAT essay. All of my kids hated this. I hated helping them prepare. But with the fourth child, things have a hit a new low.

The essay topic today was “Does history repeat itself?” Then, there were two quotes that were supposed to inspire him to essay greatness. He wasn’t inspired. I should’ve known this by the grumbling and gnashing of teeth I overheard. But I ignored it. I shouldn’t have.

At twenty-five minutes after I handed him the essay topic, the timer rang. He handed me a succinct paragraph explaining why the topic was illogical. He examined the fallacies involved. The false terms that obscured that truth. Etc., etc.

When my husband Calvin got home from work, I handed him the essay. Before he read it, I explained that our son would get a zero on the essay section of the SAT. I said that our son needed an attitude adjustment. That he needed to learn to work within the system. My husband nodded gravely. Then, Cal read the essay. He doubled over in laughter. Literally. When he finished laughing, he said, “You know, this is great.”

I was not amused.


  1. As a teacher, I would have given that student another topic and counted this one as at 20 points extra credit to the second topic, if his paper explained why the topic sucked in a well-organized and well-written fashion.

    It's too bad test graders can't do that. I bet he knows it wouldn't be appropriate on a real exam, though. Maybe here's a good time for a lesson in how to write b.s. on command? A how-to brainstorm lesson might be appropriate, and a little abstract nonsense can be fun. Start with one nonsense topic and do it together, then throw a few in to the writing topics at random.

    Good topics for these lessons:
    Why did the chicken cross the road?
    Is it ethical for the woodchuck to chuck wood?
    Should dragons be a protected species?
    Hulk vs Thor: who would win?
    Should superheroes be allowed to have secret identities?

  2. Well, that sort of response to an illogical question might not do well on a test, but it will get him FAR in life!

  3. Some kids just aren't made for tests but they sure do well later in life...

  4. I think his answer would be appropriate as long as he puts a "No" sort of opening introduction before going on to explain why the question is flawed.

    And did you know that if he scores out the text, the judges can't count that toward his final response? So he should put a whole paragraph of why it is BS, score it out, then write a typical answer if it makes him feel better.

  5. Uh-oh. Sounds like your son is doomed to be an engineer. (HA!)

  6. I get why tests have to be standardized and don't accept answers like that . . . but it is frustrating to come across something on a test you think doesn't make sense.

  7. I had a feeling that that one paragraph had genius embedded within.