Various students

April 17, 2012

Post #2809 – 20120417

Lila Lee:

    Hi Mr. Pinkwater:
    Here in NYC, eighth graders just took the first of three days of high-stakes state testing. Today we read passages and answered multiple choice questions. You are listed as the author of one of the passages, called “The Pineapple and the Hare.” It’s generated a lot of discussion, because it was such a bizarre and amusing test passage. Thanks for making my testing experience so entertaining. I saw online that it has been used in tests by many different states already. Eighth graders are talking, texting, tweeting and facebooking about your story. One of the questions on the test was, “Why did the animals eat the pineapple,” and another was, “Which of the animals was the wisest.” Both questions were a little ambiguous, I think!
    *** I wanted to ask you what your preferred responses to those questions would be!
    Can you let me know, and also tell me what you think about your stories being used in state tests?***
    Here’s a link I found to a facebook page dedicated to the pineapple and its sleeves, I thought you’d be amused to read the 8th graders responses!


    The story “The Pineapple and the Hare” was on our New York State English Language Arts Exam today. I was researching online, and I noticed it’s been used in multiple other states in years in the past. Do you have any idea why such a funny story is so often included, along with boring poems and non-fiction excerpts, in standardized testing?


William Long:

    Ok, so Mr. Pinkwater, a story that you have written has caused a lot of controversy among my school to the point where students are having full blown arguments over facebook. The reason? “Pineapples Don’t Have Sleeves” a story that YOU wrote appeared in our ELA’s, or english language arts test and we were asked this. Which animal spoke the wisest words out of all of them? And Mr. Pinkwater, I want to know which animal YOU think was the wisest, and provide the correct answer if possible.

Bridget Craig:

    You may know this by now, but one of your stories was on the NYS test for eight grade! Just like it was in Illinois a few years ago! Actually, it was more of an adaption of The Rabbit and the Eggplant. It wasn’t that much different though. The rabbit was a hare, the eggplant was a pineapple, yada yada yada. I didn’t know who you are before taking the test, but I had to find out which crazy person wrote it so I could enjoy their randomness!

Anonymous 8th grader:

    Listen, I love your work, but seriously? Selling out to the state test?

    Also, before my class goes crazy, which was the wisest animal in the hare and the pineapple?

Daniel replies:

OK, here is the deal. There are these companies that make up tests and various reading materials, and sell them to state departments of education for vast sums of money. One of the things they do is purchase rights from authors to use excerpts from books. For these they pay the authors non-vast sums of money. Then they edit the passages according to....I have no idea what perceived requirements. Here is the story as it appears in BORGEL, a novel I wrote. Borgel, who is 111 years old is telling this story and similar ones to his great-great nephew while riding on a bus:

The Story of the Rabbit and the Eggplant

Once there was a race between a rabbit and an eggplant. Now, the eggplant, as you know, is a member of the vegetable kingdom, and the rabbit is a very fast animal.

Everybody bet lots of money on the eggplant, thinking that if a vegetable challenges a live animal with four legs to a race, then it must be that the vegetable knows something.

People expected the eggplant to win the race by some clever trick of philosophy. The race was started, and there was a lot of cheering. The rabbit streaked out of sight.

The eggplant just sat there at the starting line. Everybody knew that in some surprising way the eggplant would wind up winning the race.

Nothing of the sort happened. Eventually, the rabbit crossed the finish line and the eggplant hadn't moved an inch.

The spectators ate the eggplant.

Moral: Never bet on an eggplant.

I don't know how the test publishing company changed the story. I gather they decided to call the rabbit a hare, and made the eggplant into a pineapple. Also there appears to be something about sleeves. And they made up questions for the students to answer. I would not have done any of these things. But it has nothing to do with me. I cashed the check they sent me after about 8 months, and took my wife out to lunch at a cheap restaurant. I believe, she ordered eggplant.