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SEA Language Artless

Friday, May 22, 2015

Two weeks ago, our children sat the Secondary Entrance Exam, deciding, in three hours, whether they enter one of our few “prestige”—ie, “acceptable”—schools, or if they’re sentenced to five years in one of our daytime holding cells, the preparation for longer stays in greater confinement with more bars on the windows; and without a bara man at the gate. In sympathy with these frighteningly young people, whose whole lives may have been firetrucked before their first kiss, I began the SEA myself last Friday (though, as I confessed then, with my 57th birthday looming, it’s more of a Senility Entrance Exam for me).

Last week, I struggled with maths. Next week, I’ll do the essay. 

Today, I’ll try what used to be “English” but is now “Language Arts”—even if the Caribbean Examinations Council itself is not sufficiently artful in English or any language to know that Bristol board is spelled with a capital B. It was misspelled ‘bristol board’ three times in the actual 2010 SEA paper, which I got—sorry, obtained—from the Ministry of Education. 

Let’s plunge into Language Artform—which is what I just know slack local dialect, applied without its own grammatical rules, will be called whenever “it replace de lang-widge of de oppressor as de oh-fish-ul lang-widge of eddy-kay-shun in-struck-shun.” For space reasons, I’ll do only one question from each underlined sub-division; the SEA has more sections than Tribe on Carnival Tuesday.

Section 1. Grammar Skills. 

A. Underline ONE abstract noun. Q2. The child’s mother expressed concern over the seriousness of his injury? A trick question: the real mistake is that “child-mother” should either be hyphenated or replaced with “The Madam.” 

B. Change the nouns in brackets to plural form. Q3. The old (seaman) told exciting sea stories? The old sailor and them tell exciting sea story about selling stolen diesel cheap and eating ah food. 

C. Write a suitable pronoun in EACH space. Q7. Mr Brown’s old shop, _____ has become an eyesore, will be demolished. The pronoun is “which,” but the question is still wrong because, in Trinidad, only buildings of immense historical, architectural and cultural importance, like the Greyfriars church and the MacLeod house, are demolished; abandoned derelict buildings are not torn down: they become prime spranger real estate until they collapse of their own accord. 

D. Write the correct form of the verb in brackets. Q8 Not one of my friends seems (like) classical music? 

And why should they, when the only thing playing the violin will get you is to be called a bullerman, when singing about jump-and-wave or burying your nana in your nanny hole could win you two million “dullers, sulid-liquid cyash” from the state? 

E. Rewrite the sentences using indirect speech. Q12. “Teacher,” the children asked, “Can we play outside?” The children asked if they could play outside and the teacher replied, “Not a firetruck of that. It have two spranger from Mr Brown’ eyesore shop loitering, looking to thief all-you corn curls.”

F. Underline ONE adjective in EACH sentence. Q 14. My mother baked a chocolate cake for the class party. Ah-whoa! Look trouble for Trinidadian children; how could chocolate, a noun, be an adjective? Unless it’s “class;” hmmmm. This could mean vocational school for me. 

G. Underline ONE adverb. Q 18. Ravindra has already spoken to Dario about the poetry competition? Ravindra? Dario? What happened to Boysie and Carla, the traditional occupants of primary school textbooks? They passed the SEA at last and went big school? 

H. Underline ONE preposition. Q 21. The teacher warned us repeatedly not to talk during the examination? What a horrible trick to play on SEA candidates: is this a question they’re meant to answer, or instructions they’re meant to follow; I can just imagine the future trade school students looking all over the paper for the box to tick, “Yes.” 

Section II.  Vocabulary/Spelling/Punctuation. A. Write a word opposite in meaning to the underlined word. Q 23. Eating is prohibited in the classroom when there is a Parents’ Meeting? Yet another example of the CXC failing its own Language Arts: why, pray firetrucking tell, is Parents’ Meeting capitalised? If it were a PTA or Cabinet meeting, they might have a Leg to Stand On but nothing shows Ignorance like Arbitrary Capitals and the CXC is revealing itself. 

B. Write the APPROPRIATE form of the word in CAPITAL LETTERS. Q 25. BEAUTY There are plans to______ the school’s surroundings? Beautify; no doubt by demolishing Mr Brown’s old eyesore shop. 

C. Underline and correct the incorrectly spelt word. Q29. Ruby, my mischeivous puppy, chewed my sandals? Ah, the old, “I before E except after C” rule; I wonder if the CXC knows it goes on, “or when sounded like “ay,” as in “neighbour” or “weigh?” The 2010 SEA was made extra hard—mischievously?—with “mischievous“ being the word misspelled: there’s an “H” intervening between the C and the I and E, complicating application of the rule; what happened to the old, reliable “receive?” Plenty children who might have made it to Convent ended up in rehab because of that. 

D. Insert TWO missing punctuation marks. Q 31. “That’s a wonderful idea” responded Ashas Mum excitedly? More important, why is Mum capitalised? Would they have written, “Ashas Mother?” Q 34. Did you see the film Slum Dog Millionaire? Sheesh. If you’re going to include a film title, get it right: “Slumdog Millionaire;” this is like saying “The God Father” or “For Rest Gump” or “Ava Tar;” and how come the CXC followed its spell-check for that and not for Bristol board? That’s enough un-artful language.

BC Pires is glad the CXC at least knows it’s parents’ meeting and not parent’s meeting. Email your capital cities to him at [email protected]


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