Yesterday, talking about the test Pennsylvania school districts will start requiring for high school graduation, I challenged you (y’all? youse?) to try to answer it. Pretty lame! Only three brave souls attempted an answer, and only one of them was “right.” Explanation in a minute, but first, once again, is the question (which, I should point out, is from a similar test given by the state of Maryland):
“Read the sentence in bold print below. Then choose the sentence that best incorporates the necessary revisions and maintains the meaning of the original sentence.
People are irritating when they listen to their favorite kind of music but won’t listen to other types of music.
Revise to the least critical tone.
A. People can annoy others when they listen only to their favorite music but won’t listen to other types of music.
B. People are in danger of angering others when they insist on their favorite music despite other available music.
C. People who like a certain kind of music should be willing to recognize the value of other types of music as well.
D. People can be considered narrow-minded when they refuse to consider other types of music besides their own favorite tunes.”
It is a dumb answer and an even dumber question, mainly because its linchpin is the more or less meaningless word “critical.”
Two people chose “D,” and one “C.” I myself picked “B” the first time I read the question. And the correct answer is … “C”! The person or persons who wrote the question apparently intended “critical” to connote a lack of negative adjectives, hence C. But that sentence is the only one that does in fact criticize, in the sense of passing judgment on people who behave a certain way. All the others are neutral, saying (correctly) that this behavior (not will but) may be viewed negatively by others.
I am not being critical when I say: Pennsylvania educators should make it their business to write questions that are much less dumb-ass than this one.