The “Critical Thinking” of NY State

Before reading on, here is some “food for thought” regarding a story that NY State used on the English ELA exam for 8th grade students:

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 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

Now here are the questions that NY State decided to have the students answer:

  1.  Which of the animals was the wisest?
  2. Why did the animals eat the pineapple?

My son had told my wife about this story and actually found it interesting as it involved his imagination.  He also expressed that he didn’t understand why they asked these questions.  This was when I decided to dig a little deeper.

Apparently, this story had made several newspapers and has invoked critics from every literary and educational spectrum.  I read one article defending NY State’s decision to include not only this story but the questions as it invoked the “critical thinking” concepts that teachers are required to teach.  Conversely, there were many articles criticizing NY State on including this story as it does not accurately promote educational ideals.

Although the writer intended to write a spoof on the “Tortoise and the Hare”, the fact that NY State used this to test on “critical thinking”, is proof positive that the educators of NY State have no clue as to what critical thinking really is about.

When we look at the critical thinking concept, we understand that it involves a thought process that makes the reader analyze “outside the box”.  The reader is supposed to ask the question, “What concepts can I see and understand that are not explicitly written in the story?”

Here’s the problem…Each of these questions have answers, which have a numeric value to the answer.  Our children are taught that when we use critical thinking any and all opinions have merit.  However, this concept is not only incorrect but dangerous and here’s why…

If you are standing on a street corner and see someone ready to jump off of a skyscraper, you decide to intervene.  You go up to where the jumper is and say, “Please come off of edge.  If you jump, you will die.”  The jumper responds, “I won’t die.  I believe that I can fly and even if I can’t I’ll just land on my feet.  I have been taught that as long as I land on my feet, everything will be okay.”

Based on this very short story, here is where critical thinking becomes a reality.  Critical thinking states that based on the information in the story there is a person with the right view of life and death and one that is wrong.  How do you justify the thought process?  You go to what you know is fact!

According to the Laws of Physics, gravity is a known fact that draws all objects to itself.  This means that unless I am beyond the gravitational pull of earth, I will be pulled down to the ground.  We also know that according to Physics and Biology that any object dropped from extreme heights cannot survive.  We know this not just from science but from others painful and deathly experiences.

So which person is correct in their thinking?  It is obvious that the person jumping is not in his/her right mind.  The way we just came to this conclusion is called “critical thinking”.  We have taken known facts and are able to invoke them to come up with a correct answer.  If critical thinking only involves opinions and all opinions matter, then both people in the story are correct.

Our children are being taught “all opinions matter”.  But do they?  The word “opinion” is defined as “a view, judgment or appraisal formed in the mind about a particular matter”.  Solely based on this definition, we tend to think that all opinions count and are correct.  However, as we see from our story, opinions do matter and some opinions are incorrect (no matter how positive we think we are).  When our children are taught about giving their opinion in life, they will be required to give it based on evidence, not feelings.  Unfortunately, we are being taught in school, on the web, in TV shows and movies that all opinions are valid.

Remember the original story given by NY State?  I have to ask this question…Do you think 8th grade students are going to take your test seriously when you come up with a story and related questions like this one?

On a side note…..

“Poor Spongebob, his house was eaten by Sandy the Squirrel and her friends.  Now he is homeless, wandering the ocean floor trying to understand why Sandy would attack his home in this manner.  Now the insurance company won’t pay for the rebuilding of the pineapple home as it was not an act of God.  However, there is hope.  Sandy and her friends have been arrested on hate crimes against sponges and are expected to serve 5 years in Bikini Bottom prison.  Pray that Spongebob finds a new pineapple that doesn’t have sleeves and won’t be eaten by Sandy are her friends.”

Share your thoughts.

God Bless and encourage someone today.


One thought on “The “Critical Thinking” of NY State

  1. Pingback: Critical Teaching « Brandon's Educational Blog

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