In William Faulkner’s 1938 novel The Unvanquished . the implacable Colonel Sartoris takes drastic action to stop the election of a black Republican candidate to office after the Civil War, destroying the ballots of black voters and shooting two Northern carpetbaggers. While such dramatic means of voter suppression occurred often enough in the Reconstruction South, tactics of electoral exclusion refined over time, such that by the mid-twentieth century the Jim Crow South relied largely on nearly impossible-to-pass literacy tests to impede free and fair elections.
These tests, writes Rebecca Onion at Slate . were “supposedly applicable to both white and black prospective voters who couldn’t prove a certain level of education” (typically up to the fifth grade). Yet they were “in actuality disproportionately administered to black voters.” Additionally, many of the tests were rigged so that registrars could give potential voters an easy or a difficult version, and could score them differently as well. For example, the Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement describes a test administered in Alabama that is so entirely subjective it measures the registrar’s shrewdness and cunning more than anything else.
The test here from Louisiana consists of questions so ambiguous that no one, whatever their level of education, can divine a “right” or “wrong” answer to most of them. And yet, as the instructions state, “one wrong answer denotes failure of the test,” an impossible standard for even a legitimate exam. Even worse, voters had only ten minutes to complete the three-page, 30-question document. The Louisiana test dates from 1964, the year before passage of the Voting Rights Act. which effectively put an end to these blatantly discriminatory practices. (Though last year’s Supreme Court decision in Shelby vs. Holder means that such tests, or even more slippery means, could ostensibly return in those parts of the country that have made little progress since the sixties). Learn more of the history of Jim Crow voter suppression at Rebecca Onion’s original post here and an update here .
Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness
These aren’t subjective to the point of being impossible. These are all easy, and they follow standard test formats that any child who’s taken any schooling would be familiar with. It tests basic reading comprehension and the reader’s ability to wait until he’s read the entire sentence to actually understand what’s being asked before making a mark on the paper.
If I’d been given this test as an eight year old in school, I’d be insulted that my teachers thought so low of my intelligence.
Funny, because I think this test was designed so that one one could pass! I am sure you could not pass it. I think the main point is why should the black voters have to earn the right to vote with a stupid test. Maybe you’re stupid for not understanding that!
There are a bunch of problems with this test, all specifically designed to make success nearly impossible. Like this:
– Thirty questions in ten minutes is 20 seconds per question. It took me longer than that to read and interpret all thirty, without trying to answer them, and I have a degree in physics.
– Ordinarily, literacy refers to the basic ability to read and write at an essential level; it doesn’t normally refer to compass-reading, geometry, arithmetic comprehension (i.e. numeracy), etc.
– Many questions are designed to confuse, others to allow more than one answer. The secret is that any answer will be wrong.
Example interpretations, based on my having grown up in the racist southern US:
1 & 4. Technically, you can’t draw a line around things because lines are straight.
2 & 3. The longest word in the line can be “longest” because it has the most letters, or “word” because it is the only “word” in the line. Both answers will be wrong. Similar for the “last word.”
5. Likely answerable.
6. Refers to three circles but only describes the positions of two. There have to be three circles, but any third circle is wrong.
7. What should a cross look like? Also, the space where you draw the cross is also the answer space for the previous question. Any answer will be wrong, and will invalidate #6.
8. “A” comes earliest in the alphabet. Drawing a line at all will be wrong. So will not drawing a line.
9. “Z” comes last in the alphabet, but doesn’t occur twice in the list. Any answer is wrong.
10. No word in the sentence begins with a capital L. Any writing will be wrong. Also, “below” contains the word “low,” which fulfills the “first word” request. Unless you choose it. All answers will be wrong.
11. “Necessary” is not a number; any crossing out is therefore wrong. Also, zero can be a number or a placeholder; acting on either is wrong. Also, the instructions require the test taker to cross out “the number” – singular – but multiple numbers must be crossed out to answer correctly.
12. Again, lines are straight. Also, it is not possible to draw a line that is both below and connected to something. Also, nobody told you to touch circle three. Any answer is wrong.
15. Dotting the “i” in noise will put two dots over letters, leaving the dot out is a misspelling. Also, writing “noise” backwards can mean reversing the order of the letters or writing the word in mirror image, so that the letters are also drawn backwards. Any answer is wrong.
16. “Its” can refer to either the circle or the triangle. And what is the measure of blackened?
17 & 18. These might actually be answerable.
19. Does the dot go inside the circle or inside the triangle? Both are wrong.
20. Are we to write the word “backwards” in its normal “forward” fashion, or are we to write “forwards” with the letters in reverse order? Both are wrong
21. Are we to write “vote” so that turning the paper upside down makes it normally readable, or are we to invert each letter while preserving their order? Both answers are wrong.
22. Again, what should a cross look like? Also, the space where you draw the cross is also the answer space for the previous question. Any answer will be wrong, and will invalidate #21.
23. Might be answerable, or “middle” might lose to a ruler. Or the shape might not be square enough.
24. There are very few geometrically symmetrical words, in part because there are few symmetrical letters. “bid” or “bod” or “dib” might work, unless inversion plays a role.
25. The duplicated “the” at the line break is commonly lost to syntactical/perceptive filtering. This is a popular gag in intro to psychology classes. Further, the “line provided” is connected to the triangle, which itself is constructed of lines. Any answer will be wrong.
26. Probably answerable, but clearly phrased to confuse.
27. Some possible answers:
a. Transcribe everything after the word “Write.”
b. “it”, which I wrote right, e.g. correctly
c. “right from the left to the right”
Any answer will be wrong.
28. Is the “curved horizontal line” a single continuous arc? An undulating sine curve? Geometrically speaking, can a line be a curve? Will the equality of the segments of the vertical line be measured for accuracy? It doesn’t matter, any answer will be wrong.
29. Does writing every other word begin with the first or the second? Do we put the “every others” and the “every thirds” in their original locations, or do we perform the tasks and placements sequentially? Note, too, that this is the first time “write” and “print” are explicitly differentiated, e.g. cursive vs. block printing; how does this reflect on all previous instructions? Is reading and writing in cursive crucial to literacy and voting? How legible must cursive writing be to pass? It doesn’t matter; any interpretation will be wrong.
30. The instruction is incomplete and cannot be performed as described. Also, what constitutes interlocking? Any answer will be wrong.
Remember, any single wrong answer – equal to a 96.7% success rate – is a failure. We’ve likely gotten nearly every answer “wrong” in the proctor’s flexible interpretation. We will not be allowed to vote.
I’ll add that any complaint from the test taker will be answered with either an excessively simplistic “see how obviously stupid you are” demonstration to help you internalize your inadequacy (on a good day) or the threat of arrest or grievous harm (on a bad day).
The goal was never too test literacy, it was to prevent voting, full stop.
Homework – 04.03.2016
Don’t forget to use your CGP books, if you purchased them. These will really help with your revision.
Don’t forget that boosters start on Monday 14th March. Monday nights will be focusing on maths and Tuesdays will focus on reading and SPAG.
Spring Home learning tasks
Here are seven home learning projects to support our Spring Term topic of World War II. These tasks can be completed in any order. Children should complete one task every fortnight, to bring to Class Share on Fridays.
Evacuee Outfit: We will be visiting Kelham Island this term and as part of the activities we are all required to dress as evacuees. Can you create an authentic evacuee outfit to wear to the visit and for other activities in school? You teachers will all be busy getting their outfits ready too!.
Design and Technology: Design and create a model World War II aircraft, using any materials you may already have at home. Your design should include a labelled diagram and an equipment/materials list.
Literacy: Imagine you are an evacuee in WWII, taken from your family and put into the care of a stranger in the countryside. Can you write a letter home to a family member of yours? What would you tell them about how you are feeling? What might you tell to make them feel better?
RE – Judaism: Research and present a Fact File on the Synagogue. What does it look like? How does the Synagogue differ from the Christian Church or the Muslim Mosque?
Design and Technology: Design and create a model anderson shelter or victory garden. Think about what materials you could use to create miniature fences, grass and trees. Try to use items you can find around the house such as old packaging.
German: Linked with our new topic of WWII, we are introducing a new language this term – German. Children, can you create a resource sheet for next year’s Y6 on either German numbers or colours? Your resource sheet will need to include illustrations and labels in both German and English.
Science: In Science this term, we are learning about light. Can you find out about the parts of the eye. Use labeled diagrams and sketches to show what you have found out.
We can’t wait to see what creative ideas you come up with.
Numeracy. Homework will be set each Wednesday to be completed and handed in on the following Friday.
If you have any problems or do not understand your homework please come and see a Y6 teacher as soon as possible.
Mr Williams, Mrs Graham and Mrs EvansShare this: Smart Search Take a look For Parents Herringthorpe Junior School