4th Grade Quiz: Four Ways Not to be Fooled

“What do you get when you cross an elephant with a rhino?”  goes the old joke. The answer: Elephino (hell if I know)!

To the question of whether the attached image is the real thing, that’s the best I can figure out. (Click to see it full-size.)

I saw it this morning on the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Science and Reason Facebook page, a link shared by J.O., commenter from Gothenburg, Sweden. The original image appears to be from Imgur.

The Imgur side-caption says the picture was posted 14 hours ago (from the time I write this), and has 473,915 views.

Both images are purported to be an “Actual 4th grade science test from a school in SC.”

Real or not? I’m still looking into it. The thing is, the image strains my mind enough that I’m afraid it’s a fake. Nobody could be teaching THAT, could they?

On the other hand, for entirely different reasons, I’m afraid it’s real. Yeah, they COULD be teaching that.

But is it real? Given the daily demands of our individual lives, most of us will gloss over the question and settle for our simple reaction. But … for every lie tossed out there, someone has to look into it and report back to the rest of us, and maybe sometimes that person should be you. First so you can satisfy yourself about what sorts of things take place in the real world, second so you can report back.

But also, and very importantly, so you can defend yourself against manipulation. If you have a “button” that can be pushed, so that you react in a predictable way every single time it’s pushed, there are people who will find a way to use that against you. There’ s a whole industry of button-pushers out there, sad to say, and they’re experts at getting us to jump in ways that benefit them. And jump not just as individuals, but as HERDS of us, stampeding here and there at the will of the whip-wielders driving us.

There are a few powerful tools that can keep you safe from that.

First is Reason itself. Consider the thing before you on its face, calmly and carefully looking for logical fallacies, faulty assertions, outright lies, all the hints of falseness and foolery.

Second but simultaneous is the willingness to look beneath the surface of the thing, to seriously investigate it, to follow leads in as many directions as you can, so you’ll have something to reason about.

Third is this: Band together with a community of like-minded reasoning people so you have brothers-in-arms to wade into the thing with you, or in your stead. Trust them to help you. Encourage their own trust, in return, by being trustworthy.  (Never lie to them, never fool them, never play jokes on them for your own amusement.)

Fourth is your own individuality, which serves as your personal defense against both the original whip-crackers and your own people (who sometimes make mistakes, and even conduct their own stampedes, as I hope we all know).

So here’s me investigating: I first looked at the Dawkins page, then the Imgur link, enlarging both to be sure I was looking at the same image.

The sheet looks real enough. The “Smile” sticker is a believable touch, as is the “100 A+” in red pencil. The handwriting might be a bit too good for a 4th grader (10 or 11 years old, here in the U.S.), but it’s within the range of possibility. I noted the date on the page: March 28, 2013. Recent. But again, where?

Second, I read the caption and comments on the Dawkins site. One suspicious detail is that there’s no further information. South Carolina where? Which school? Who originally found it and brought it to light?

I clicked the link and went to the Imgur site. No detail there, but there is a second page attached, a partial page showing the question “18. The next time someone says the earth is billions (or millions) of years old, what can you say?” With a scribbled-in answer: “were you there”.

Next, I opened a Google Image Search, dragging the image from the Imgur page into the search window, where I got a small number of hits, only one of which was new, and germane.

Look at comments on the Science Fact page. Though most are of the shock-and-horror variety, there is one that appears seriously sympathetic to the religious viewpoint:

Lee Swanson: There are so many theophobes and anti-religious bigots here. It’s hard to believe all the hate. I think what I am seeing is that many are offended, probably because you don’t like the implication that you were created. If you were created, you might have to change your like style because there is a God from whom you need forgiveness. Also, do all you evolutionists really think you are so logical and scientific when you believe in any idea except the one that make the most sense. For example: There are only four logical possible explanations for the existence of the universe. 1. It came from nothing by nothing, which is what many evolutionists believe. This is scientifically impossible. 2. It is eternal. Finite, contingent things cannot be eternal. We still acknowledge a cause and effect universe, so eternality is not an option. 3. It is an illusion and the universe really isn’t here. (eastern religions). 4. Someone or something (God) outside of the universe brought it into existence. Go ahead, evolutionists, pick option one, but then you have to acknowledge you are clinging to your own religion based on faith, not fact or science.

So there’s reason to believe that there are people out there willing to defend this stuff, if not on its face then at least by attacking any critics as mere haters.

I checked with Snopes.com, and searched “4th Grade Science Quiz” and “Science Quiz,” but got no useful hits.

I would strongly doubt it’s in a public school. Even in South Carolina, some parent would eventually react. If it’s real, this would be either a private Christian school or a home-school.

Okay, that’s the thing itself. What about the thing beyond the thing? In other words, who and why and where and when?

If it’s real, it’s scary on its own, and deserves further investigation about where and why this is being allowed. But there’s still the question of motivation.

One possible motivation is that it came from a parent who dares not get involved, but who wants someone to do something about it. So this would be someone on our side of the fence.

A second motivation would also involve someone from our side, someone not directly involved but who also wanted something done. This one seems less likely; one of us would have posted the full details of where and when this took place, so we COULD respond to it.

If it’s not real — if somebody faked it up — questions about who did it and why arise. The existence of it suggests that whoever did it would know there’d be some sort of shock-and-outrage reaction from people in the pro-science, pro-education, anti-religious-indoctrination camps. The joker’s motive is opaque, of course, but it would seem likely to be the simple tweaking of noses, the desire to stir up outrage and then laugh about it privately.

But the possibility that it’s a “herder” bears thinking about too. Just because you’re NOT paranoid doesn’t mean there aren’t people out to get you. Or control you. And this thing is rather professional looking, don’t you think?

So: Are we being herded? Who would benefit? Not enough information; shelve it for now but keep it in mind. (Also keep in mind that it could even be someone in our own camp.)

Whether the joker is churchy or freelance, he/she knew we’d react to it, and probably how. We haven’t disappointed him.

Pending further information, I tend to lean very slightly toward thinking this might be fake.

I hope it is.

  • Rebecca Hensler

    Thanks for being more thorough than I was. I just saw it and thought, “Could be real or fake; without evidence I’m not assuming it’s real.” If it is real, it’s from a religious school, not a public school. Could also be from a “Good News Club” sort of “afterschool activity.”

  • Anna Harris

    Thank you. I checked the same sources you did, but it got me no further than it got you. I believe motivation is the key word here. Why? And your suggestion that it might be a parent reacting anonymously rings true….

  • http://leavingfundamentalism.wordpress.com Jonny Scaramanga

    I agree; it could well be fake. But I’ve spent most of the last year blogging about Accelerated Christian Education. This definitely isn’t an ACE test, but the questions could be. Schools that teach this blatantly do exist; ACE is in 192 countries.

  • Dindy Robinson

    I have a vague memory of seeing this on FB several years ago as an example of a test from a Christian Home School curriculum. I won’t say that no public school has ever used it, because teachers can and do bring in their own materials. But I find it highly unlikely that it is part of the authorized curriculum in a public school in South Carolina. Louisiana, maybe! But not SC.

  • Dindy Robinson

    Found it! It’s from an Answers in Genesis Science curriculum for Christian schools and homeschoolers:

    And here’s a newsletter from a private school that actually had Ken Hamm come and speak to their students about dinosaurs and Genesis:

  • http://www.dragonsearchmarketing.com Ric

    I did the same thing! – Also, I used an online tool for analyzing the meta information of the file – which was non-existant. As Dindy discovered, it’s “real,” although this as a genuine test that a child was given and then photographed might still be suspect. It’s good that we still search out if these types of things are genuine.

  • Al Sibilo

    No 4th grade science test is entitled “4th grade science test”. It’s clearly ‘created’ with the intention of ‘creating’ controversy about ‘creationism’.

    Do they teach kids this shit? Yes, I am sure of it. But that doesn’t make this test real.

  • Joel

    Lee Swanson has a very poor understanding of the scientific theories regarding the origin of the universe. His comment is nonsense with a thin veil of logic. I find his belief that he somehow possesses an understanding of something “outside the universe” and that this something apparently requires no origin explanation of its own absolutely mindboggling.

  • Chris

    I too have been looking into the authenticity of this picture. I took the route you did, then went one step further. Google “creationist quiz” “creationist dinosaur quiz”
    There you will find lots of sites teaching everything you see on this document.
    Whole courses
    they have a quiz here.
    It goes on and on.

    • Hank Fox

      Chris, damn. That’s scary as hell. It’s like a maze of pure craziness.

      • Chris

        Yes, unfortunately the authenticity of the picture is kind of moot in favor of all the very real websites offering nearly the exact same thing.

  • Alex.

    It can’t be in a public school in South Carolina. The SC science curriculum seems to be a public document (see:


    It clearly headlines evolutionary theory.

  • Hank Fox

    Alex, I hadn’t thought of checking the state school curriculum on science. Excellent idea!

  • Rick
    • Hank Fox

      Rick, excellent catch! The date on the thing is recent, and it says the original photographer will reveal details in June, so maybe we’ll get to hear the real story in a few months.

      Heh. Hopefully whoever created/used the thing — IF IT’S REAL — has already gotten word, and is feeling a little nervous about further revelations.

  • http://twitter.com/brumplum Richard

    Snopes have now looked into it and they have the whole second page of the quiz:

    They gave it a rating of “probably true” and I fear they may be right. (I actually first found this story on Snopes while looking for something else, and googling to find out more brought me to this blog, so I thought I’d share this with you)

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