Sunday, April 14, 2024

SATURDAY’S CHILD: Growing up absurd


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ONE OF THE QUESTIONS in the student survey was, “In a word, describe school.” The answer was “Hell”. Young Frankie was asked to complete a sentence beginning with, “I earn money by . . .” His reply was, “I don’t. I am a freeloader.” One youngster was given the choice of the words “fit” and “hit” to complete the sentence “The man ____ the dog.” His preferred word was “pet” and he added a postscript to the teacher, “You should not hit dogs.”

The teacher probably threw a fit but the responses from the kids are from a Mail Online article published earlier this week with the caption, “They’ll go far! Know-it-all children’s hilarious homework proves that the best answer is NOT always the right one. Despite being totally wrong these cheeky kids put teachers in their place.”

For my generation this was neither easy nor advisable and how far you went was determined by the distance to the headmaster’s or principal’s office.

Kids today are different in ways that I find intriguing and, like the kid who chose to use the word “pet” and reprimand the teacher about the option of hitting the dog, some are very socially conscious. 

One was given what on the surface is a very simple mathematics problem. “Evan told his class that the people in his family have 14 legs altogether. Quinton said Evan must have 14 people in his family. Is Quinton correct? Explain why or why not.” The child’s answer? “Yes, because 142 equals 7 but not everyone has two legs. Go to (this is a military and veterans charity service organisation empowering injured soldiers and their families).”

Another child was a little bit closer to our kind of answer. The kid was asked, “What ended in 1896?” The really studious ones would have said that in 1896 England defeated Zanzibar in the shortest war on record – one that lasted all of 38 minutes. Others would have taken the easy way out – the American Civil War.  The best answer? 1895. 

Another youngster, though, had the kind of insouciance that characterised our generation. The question? “Miranda can’t see anything when she looks down her microscope. Suggest one reason why not.”  Even the teacher had to write “Good try” next to the youngster’s answer – “She is blind”. 

Another, after my own heart, was asked to explain the meaning of the phrase “Free Press”. He replied, “When your mum irons your trousers for you.” There was also the student who was asked to answer what “hard water” is. His studied response? Ice.

Another, when asked if he met Abraham Lincoln what would he say to him, answered, “Don’t go to a play. Ever.” But one young person, wiser than her years, when faced with the question, “Tapeworms are hermaphrodites. What is meant by the term “hermaphrodite”?, responded, “Lady Gaga”.

Some kids are very smart and much more aware of the world than we were. For example, one question in an examination was, “What do we call the science of classifying living things?” A student answered, “Racism”. On the other hand, in a test on chemical bonds was, “Some atoms share electrons and become more stable. Describe a situation where people share something and everyone benefits.” The smart aleck answer, obviously from a kid who had no interest in chemistry, was, “Communism”. 

Another one was less interested in history than in comedy. Asked, “Where was the American Declaration of Independence signed?”, he replied, “At the bottom.” Another answered the question, “What is the highest frequency noise a human can register?” with a bunch of hearts and the words “Mariah Carey”. 

Of course, all the youngsters do not go that route deliberately. One of them was a trifle mixed up when it came to human biology. The question was, “What happens during puberty to a boy?” His answer was, “He says goodbye to his childhood and enters adultery.”  

I was trying to think of some of the things we found funny and there was one I remembered. It was an examination question set by our literature teacher, Brother Lawrence. Our curriculum included the essays of William Hazlitt, one of which was named The Fight

We found it tedious since the fight lasted only a few sentences while the journey to the fight took up most of the very lengthy essay. When asked why Hazlitt gave his essay that particular name, one of the boys wrote, “Because he was fighting up with it.” The boy who incurred the wrath of Brother Lawrence definitely had no interest in literature and is now (I hear) a successful doctor in Canada. 

Kids today are not much different in other ways, especially in quickly getting from cause to effect. In an examination the cause was given as, “Tony practises the piano for 20 minutes every day.” It was illustrated by a drawing of Tony smiling as he tinkled the ivories. The effect, as perceived by the student, was, “He is a big nerd”.

Some kids are more diplomatic and one provided what some teachers thought was the best answer of all. Ten-year old Ricky got the question, “How would you make a marriage work?” His answer, “Tell your wife she looks pretty even if she looks like a truck.” 

• Tony Deyal was last seen commending a kid after his own heart and other edible parts. Asked, “Would you rather be stuck on a desert island alone or with one person you hate?” The boy answered, “I would rather be on an island with someone I hate so I have something to eat.”


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