Fw: Funny Missteps in Student Exams

From: Michael Roberts (michael.andrea.r@ukonline.co.uk)
Date: Fri May 23 2003 - 16:22:29 EDT

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    Is humour, even American, allowed on this list
    ----- Original Message -----
    From: "Suzanne Moon" <smoon@MINES.EDU>
    Sent: Friday, May 23, 2003 8:15 PM
    Subject: Funny Missteps in Student Exams

    > >Date: Fri, 23 May 2003 13:05:16 -0600
    > >To: h-sci-med-tech@h-net.msu.edu
    > >From: Suzanne Moon <smoon@mines.edu>
    > >Subject: Funny Missteps in Student Exams
    > >
    > >
    > >Dear Listmembers,
    > >
    > >In a slight departure from usual practice, we are posting the following
    > >from Robert Proctor for the general amusement of the list - certainly for
    > >many of us this comes at an apporpriate time of the semester. Because
    > >comes from his personal experiences (and is not like those anonymous
    > >postings that travel around the internet), and because the editors all
    > >found it good fun, we opted to share this with the list. Enjoy!
    > >
    > >H-SCI-MED-TECH Editorial Staff
    > >
    > >
    > >Date: Tue, 20 May 2003 13:18:34 -0400
    > >From: Robert Proctor <rnp5@psu.edu>
    > >Subject: Funny Missteps in Student exams
    > >
    > >
    > >I realize the genre is a bit cliche but the temptation is so great and
    > >confusions so amusing, I find it hard to resist a compilation. I've
    > >reproduced below are some extracts from actual exams written by students
    > >my History of Science 122 class, which covers a time-span basically from
    > >prehistory to the present. It's an introductory history (and STS)
    > >but I get students from all fields and levels. I have conjoined here
    > >of the juicier whoppers to preserve a coherent narrative flow, but I
    > >you that all of the separate elements were presented innocently by
    > >non-wisecracking undergraduates--by which I mean that none (to my
    > >knowledge) were intended to be humorous. I have corrected grammar and
    > >syntax for readability; I've also omitted simple errors of fact that are
    > >no pedagogic or humoral interest. I've also corrected most misspellings,
    > >except where the slip is the point of interest. The fun of course is to
    > >find the hidden sense, or transformation, or assimilation to common
    > >knowledge.
    > >
    > >Robert Proctor
    > >
    > >
    > >
    > >Actual Student Responses in Final Exams for my History of Science I
    > >taught at Penn State University, read by Robert N. Proctor
    > >
    > > The oldest tools are those found by the Leakies, who called them
    > >"Older Ones" for the Valley in which flint was first chipped in Africa.
    > >one knows if the Neanderthals were stooped or human, but the theories are
    > >dispersed. One says that man evolved straight from the Australians
    > >(literally "southern apes"), the other says the opposite. No one knows
    > >because "evidence of absence is not absence of evidence." Deep time had
    > >be unearthed first, before the Ancients would agree with the Moderns
    > >whether trees were more like bushes or ladders.
    > > The transformation from the Ancient world to the Modern did not
    > > happen
    > >overnight, however. The shift from the two-sphere universe to the
    > >one-sphere universe had to do with the times, including the invention of
    > >printable type. The Ptolemaic universe stated that epic cycles exist for
    > >planets which orbit in an ecliptical system, which required a lot of
    > >circles and backtracking. Science is also majorly influenced by social
    > >forces, because if people in one town believe that something that goes
    > >beyond the facts, they're liable just to go along with social beliefs,
    > >not change. In the two-sphere universe of the Ancients, for example,
    > >professors refused to believe that outer space was made of matter. Plato
    > >had very good communication skills, however, which helped him with his
    > >dialogues, some of which were written in caves.
    > > A lot of early struggles occurred between the Ancients and the
    > >Moderates. Kepler showed that the planets revolve in an elliptical
    > >while focusing on the sun. These Moderates had difficulty convincing the
    > >old order of this new way, especially the Fryers and Priestocratics who
    > >still held sway. The Copernican Revolution actually occurred much
    > >than the events that go by that name, however. The Magi of Hereticus had
    > >insisted that the sun was at the center of the earth, for example. There
    > >were also cultural influences from various religions, races, and creeds,
    > >which were claimed to be damaging but they weren't.
    > > Other cultures contributed in their many own ways. The Mayans
    > > worshipped
    > >Venus, though they didn't know that's what it was. Their calendar was
    > >accurate, but the person who won the ball game got killed and their heads
    > >were elongated by stretching. Diego de Landa was a San Francisco Fryer
    > >burned the Mayan libraries, except for 3 Cotexes. The Anastases had a
    > >dagger on a Beaut and the first sculpture of a heart discovered by a
    > >cardiologist. Stonehenge was never credited for having been built by the
    > >ancient people who made it, who remain mysterious. The Chinese never
    > >actually had a scientific revolution, though they did have one
    > >later. Earlier, they were hamstrung by the absence of colonization and
    > >much red tape. They were basically a peace-loving people, with no need
    > >weapons apart from guns, rockets, flame-throwers, and an early version of
    > >hand grenade. Their love of family united them and led them to fillet
    > > Historians used to say the earth was never flat, but that is now
    > > seen as a
    > >superstition. Later, after the Renaissance was literally "rebirthing,"
    > >Europeans had a Scientific Revolution, though no one knows whether it
    > >really happened. Copernicus showed that the earth was not geocentric,
    > >though not everyone followed suit, which is why Bruno was burned at the
    > >steak for upholding plurals. Some held to the view that the solar system
    > >was geocentric, but Galileo showed that the sun is actually at the center
    > >of the earth, using microscopes also to inspect the moon's
    > >craters. Galileo's study of falling bodies at Pizza then showed that
    > >meteors would fall from the sky because of the gravitational pull of the
    > >planets. In the new universe, time was infinite and space was finite, or
    > >vice versa. Bacon was a great writer, and some said he wrote
    > >but the man by that name may actually have been himself.
    > > Newton is said to be the first genius, though some said this was
    > > from lack
    > >of sleep and sex. Some have pointed out that he wasn't a deist, meaning
    > >that God abandoned the earth soon after he made it. Others have said
    > >he worshipped God only on the weekday rather than on the weekends.
    > >Boil's air pump was a controversial Leviathan (which means "giant"); he
    > >evacuated a jar of mice, proving to observers that a plenum was almost
    > >impossible. Hobbes was also a Leviathan, though he maintained that man
    > >"nasty, brutish and short." All of this produced consternation in
    > >quarters, particularly for the Church, which was increasingly Jesuitical,
    > >especially in China. Many scientists joined a Royal Society, where
    > >showed the power of verbs in his motto nailed above the society's
    > >door. Much of the science at this time involved crafty
    > >experimentation. These changes brought new heights of knowledge, so we
    > >don't have to always look back over the shoulders of giants.
    > > The eighteenth century was the Enlightenment, which means
    > > light
    > >into dark corners. Women were barred from study at universities, but
    > >were eventually given the opportunity to discuss natural philosophy in
    > >French saloons. Platypus showed why mammals are called mammals, which
    > >to do with the fact that they are breast-fed through a single
    > >orifice. Maria Merian tried to find a new silkworm, but had to travel to
    > >Viet Nam instead to work for the Dutch, who later gave her a 500 Mark
    > > Darwin wasn't the naturalist on board the Beagle, but his
    > > confinement with
    > >Fitzroy may have caused him to go insane. His illness was either very
    > >Victorian, or else caused by the Benchuga bug which he let ram his finger
    > >over and over again. Darwin became great for his work with galloping
    > >turtles and a penguin that loves warm water. The finches were a mistake,
    > >though, since their beaks were not what we think they are. Lamarck
    > >defended evolution but got caught in a revolutionary fight with Queviay,
    > >the founder of comparative physiology. Lamarck was an evolutionist but
    > >believed in the inheritance of applied characteristics. Paley found a
    > >watch on a path and said it explained natural theology.
    > > Proctor in his Racial Hygiene shows that the Nazi Sterilization
    > > Law was
    > >passed to prevent the breeding of losers. His book clearly tells the
    > >story, though he can sometimes go off into details which may cloud the
    > >reader's mind, in an effort to outlet his great knowledge of the subject.
    > >Rachel Carson's book, Silent Scream, protested the use of pesticides and
    > >caused a huge uproar. Recent scholars have disproved the idea of
    > >scientific progress as very outdated. Cultural influences were once
    > >claimed to be damaging to science, but science is also helping us bring a
    > >better day.
    > >
    > >
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