Friday, April 27

Trick Question on Anatomy Test

This is one of those moments when I'm glad I'm not a teacher anymore. If you try to be funny or clever (and you're not careful), then you'll write something like this on a practice test (quoted from First Coast News):
Ursula was angry after her boyfriend broke up with her after having sex. To get revenge, she had sex with his best friend the next day. Ursula had a beautiful baby girl nine months later. Ursula has type O blood, her ex-boyfriend has type AB blood and his best friend is type A blood. If her baby daddy is her ex-boyfriend what could the possible blood type(s) of her baby NOT be.
This is a disgrace! First of all, First Coast News did not add the question mark that was in the original question, so it's misquoted above. Also, the news channel posted the upset father video to Youtube in 240p. Was the video recorded on a flip phone or something?

The question itself is confusing, too. It's hard to tell what it's asking. Or telling. For example, we know that Ursula is angry at her now ex-boyfriend, but the reason given is "after having sex." With whom? The question does not tell us that it was Ursula and her ex who engaged in the sex, and he therefore could have been cheating on her. In fact, she could have been cheating on him.

We also have to wonder whether the having sex, assuming it was with Ursula, was somehow the catalyst for the breakup. Based on years of being a male and knowing other males, the act of having sex generally does not lead immediately to breaking off a relationship. That's usually several weeks later.

The timing of the"next day" is not well-defined in this word problem, either. Are we to assume that this boyfriend broke up with Ursula as he was putting his clothes back on, or did he just do this at some point over the next few days? Maybe it was a month later because she decided to stop having relations. Who knows?

Some confusion could be eliminated with more specific word choice. Just say Ursula "gave birth" to a beautiful baby girl rather than "had." Had can imply she gave birth at that point, but it can also be seen as an ongoing situation, as in she had the baby six months later, and still had it nine months later. In fact, there's no definitive proof she was impregnated by the boyfriend or his best friend, save for a "baby daddy" reference that might escape the vocabulary of some readers.

We learn that both Ursula and her ex have blood types. However, the best friend IS a blood type. Literally, the text claims that this "best friend is Type A blood." That's troubling, and it implies that the ex is more sinister than at first glance. It also means that Ursula made time with an unspecified volume of Type A blood. That's disgusting, but it would not result in pregnancy.

To ask the question as a negative is just mean and confusing. Why not just go full confusion as ask if the father's not her ex, what could the blood types not be? Or if it is her ex's friend, then which ones would it not be? The best way to ask a question like this is in the affirmative. I'd ask it more like this: If her ex is the baby daddy, which blood types for the child would be eliminated? Or which ones would be possible? Something like that.

But the real concern here is that the hospital apparently did not test the baby's blood and let Ursula KNOW which blood type the baby does have. I'm pretty sure my wife knows our kids' blood types and has them written down somewhere in case of situations like this.

Anyhow, as a former teacher, I'm going to bet this question, with all its embarrassing flaws, was more than likely written by students as an assignment. I've done that before, and students can get kind of bawdy with their questions. Even if that's not the case, that's sure what the teacher ought to say to explain it. Honestly, if the teacher did write this, it's pretty bad. I'm not even getting into the potential sexism, ageism, racism, or other ism you could extract from the text. "Sexually explicit" is how the news described it, but I don't think I'd bother to go there. And it's not like a practice test question is meant to teach values to students. Anyhow, sexually explicit would have been a description of the act of sex. This is more of a morality tale, and it's actually degrading to anyone who gets pregnant from one-night-stands rather than sexually explicit. The truth is that sex is required to produce offspring, so just saying someone had sex to have the baby is a fact. Someone was obviously trying to be funny. It makes me laugh, but I can see why some people aren't laughing right now.

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