Thursday, May 7, 2009

Sure, Everyone Knows The Phrase "Helium-based Life Forms"

Yes, We Are All Helium Based
Daughter, along with the rest of California public school students, is in the midst of STAR testing. STAR stands for Standardized Testing And Reporting. It's the annual testing done so No Child is Left Behind! [Exclamation point added. Of course, the official NCLB Act contains no exclamation point. It also contains very little in the way of dollar signs. But I digress. And then it occurs to me, at what grade level do you think the word "digress" shows up on the English portion of the STAR test?]

Of course, the really best thing about NCLB is all the teaching to the test that has resulted from it. I am just so pleased that my children are learning exactly what is on the test and nothing more, like theory or background or context. Just the facts, ma'am. And only the facts deemed worthy of knowing.

They do practice tests all the time. And then they study from the practice tests. These are not unlike the practice tests the DMV gives out or the citizenship practice tests. In other words, the questions are almost exactly the same on the practice test as they are on the real test. They are known as "no-brainer" tests. [Not really. I just made that up. But, dammit, they should be known as that.]

Daughter left her practice California Standards Test for Grade 5 Science at school so she needed to borrow a classmate's practice test. Daughter almost never forgets anything she needs at school. Her classmate is notorious for forgetting and having to come to our house every couple of weeks for one assignment or another. We don't mind. We're happy to oblige. 'Cause we're that kind of people.

I made a copy of the practice test and returned it to Daughter's classmate. Let's call her Ichabod, the classmate. [Yeah, it's not a girl's name, but it's kind of catchy.] In quizzing Daughter, I came across this question:

All living things contain which element?

A. Helium
B. Sodium
C. Copper
D. Carbon

Ichabod had circled A. As Ichabod was so very kind to have let us make a copy of her practice test, I thought we should be kind enough to call and let her know that the correct answer was D. So I did. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: Hi, Ichabod. It's Daughter's mom. I just wanted to let you know that I saw you had an answer wrong on the practice test. I thought you'd want to correct it on your own copy so you had the right answer when you're studying tonight.

Ichabod: Oh, we corrected the test with TEACHER in class.

Me: Oh, well, maybe you just misheard. It's Question 4. All living things contain the element carbon, not helium.

Ichabod: No, TEACHER said it was helium.

Me: Maybe you want to check with your mom or dad. They could Google it with you.

Ichabod: Okay. Bye.

The next day, I saw Ichabod on the yard and asked her if she'd asked her parents about the question. She had. They told her she was right and I was wrong. Helium was the right answer.

And now all I imagine is Ichabod sucking on a balloon, pulling the helium out, and singing the "Mickey Mouse" song.

[Image courtesy]


Beth P. said...

Helium based dating systems for fossils and such could be interesting.

Tricia said...

This drives me a tad battier than I already am when I think about all the testing, and the schools and on and on and on.

shiny said...

Maybe if we were helium-based we wouldn't be, as a society, as obsessed about weight?

Oh -- and I like the little hipster soul patch Mickey is sporting...

MamaGeek @ Works For Us said...

Hmmmph, now this is a movement I could get behind. :)

Anonymous said...


Coal Miner's Granddaughter said...

I became a helium-based lifeform this past weekend at my son's birthday party after sucking up all the helium in his party balloons.

Yes, it's an addiction. No, I'm not going into a rehab facility. Can't make me.


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