The Daily Devil’s Dictionary: “Multiple Choice” Culture

ow youngsters are groomed for the consumer society.

The most alert observers of educational trends have for some time noticed that for the purposes of evaluation, especially in the US, the multiple choice test has taken an unassailable dominant position. Many have examined its deficiencies and dangers, but many more defend multiple choice questions (MCQ) because they make their lives either easier (when grading tests) or more profitable (when publishing tests).

Now a new reason has emerged for critiquing MCQs. In one particular case, the mother of a second grader detected a serious problem in her son’s homework. She discovered what she believes to be racist innuendo in one of the distractors (the name for a wrong answer in an MCQ). Here is the question:



Multiple choice:

A popular format for questions used for the purposes of testing and learning, carefully designed to restrict creative and critical thinking and reduce knowledge to standard, uncritically examined formulations

Contextual note

This question made the news because this mother detected something potentially offensive in the wording. To her politically correct mind, “master” = white and “slave” = black. Whether this was the intention of the author of the question is debatable, but the sin of using words that might possibly be offending was enough to create a stir. “How I read it is that masters are better than slaves, and therefore white people are better than black people.”

The notions of “master” and “slave” are concepts that describe a power relationship, without specific reference to race. Slaves have existed and continue to exist in various human societies. The reality of slavery in human history provides a living metaphor for the systematic abuse of power. At his recent speech in Davos, George Soros, for example, complained about the excessive power of Facebook and Google: “The owners of the platform giants consider themselves the masters of the universe, but in fact, they are slaves to preserving their dominant position.”

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