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Erlkönig: Pass the test

How clean is your mind?
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[collected 2004-04-04]

A first-grade teacher, Ms. Brooks, was having trouble with one of her students, and upon asking him, Harry, what's your problem?, Harry answered I'm too smart for the 1st grade. My sister is in the third grade and I'm smarter than she is! I think I should be in the third grade too!

Quite put out at the youngster's presumption, she took Harry to the principal's office, leaving him sitting in a chair in the outer office as she went to confer with the principal, closing the solid oak door behind her.

As Harry waited outside, unable to hear, Ms. Brooks laid out her concerns to the principal, who listened increasingly thoughtfully as her tale when on. Finally, he explained to Ms. Brooks that he would give the boy a test that with any luck would convince even Harry that it was far too soon to advance to the next grade, much less to his sister's.

Harry was brought in and listened quietly as the principal detailed the impromptu placement exam, and how Harry's passing it would be proof that he could, indeed, move into a higher grade. However, since any third grader should know all of these question easily, answering even one of them incorrectly would mean that he would have to accept his lot as a first grader and behave. Harry accepted the terms of the contest confidently, as Ms. Brooks looked on in exasperation at his attitude, but with some optimism that the plan would, at least, finally beat some humility into Harry. And so it began.

Principal: What is 3 times 8?

Harry: 24.

Principal: What is 72 divided by 9?

Harry: 8.

Principal: How does one spell ‘granddaughter’?

Harry: G, r, a, n, d, d, a, u, g, h, t, e, r.

[...]

And so it went with every question the principal thought a third grader should know.

Finally, The principal sat back in his chair, looked at Ms. Brooks and told her, I'm surprised to say this, but I think Harry is ready to go on to the third grade.

Flabbergasted but determined, Ms. Brooks said You've gone too easy on him. Just because he can answer basic third grade questions doesn't mean he's mature enough to behave. Let me ask him a few more, and if he can do as well, then, I'll allow that advancing him might not be a disaster.

The principal and Harry both agreed.

Ms. Brooks asked, What does a cow have four of that I have only two of?

The principal started slightly.

Harry, after a moment: Legs.

Ms. Brooks: What is in your pants that you have but I do not have?

The principal frowned, wondering if he was just hearing the questions the wrong way.

Harry replied: Pockets.

Ms. Brooks: What does a dog do that a man steps into?

Surely she wasn't deliberately trying to get the boy to...

Harry: Pants.

Ms. Brooks: What's starts with a C, ends with a T, is hairy, oval, delicious and contains thin, whitish liquid?

The principal suddenly realized that he wouldn't be able to protest without risking a harassment suit.

Harry: Coconut.

Ms. Brooks: What goes in hard and pink then comes out soft and sticky?

Or his even getting fired, since surely anyone guiding children shouldn't be having the thoughts he was having.

Harry: Bubble gum.

Ms. Brooks: What does a man do standing up, a woman do sitting down and a dog do on three legs?

The principal's day was well into the realm of the surreal at this point.

Harry: Shake hands.

Ms. Brooks: What word starts with an 'F' and ends in 'K' that means a lot of heat and excitement?

Now, the principal felt sure that even standing up from behind his desk would inevitably end his career.

Harry: Firetruck.

Ms. Brooks stopped, clearly nonplussed, and looked at the principal in consternation.

Taking a deep, calming breath, and trying not to think, the principal told the teacher, Put Harry in the fifth-grade, I got the last seven questions wrong.

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