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So…we meet again Dr. Soconfuseme… yet once more!

December 8, 2011

And I have many - questions’ that is… Hmm... have you lost some weight?

Hello again Dr. Soconfuseme: re Exam II.7953
Truly, it would be perspicacious of me in relation to these matters should I not have to write you. Unfortunately however this is not the case. Now I appreciate that it is important for us as students to recognize the importance of demonstrating a working knowledge of the material vs. merely a rote memorization of it. (But Mithras’ help us) – How it is possible to actually demonstrate this in a multiple choice format is beyond me. Now in cases where there are questions’ about the questions’ – one wonders to whom’ one should be directing one’s comments and queries about the questions themselves? – Specifically as it regards the content and/or accuracy of the exam interrogatories themselves in relation to the text.
– I continue –
Exam Question 921: Probationers who fall behind in restitution are sent to make payments on their debt at a probation center.
Exam answer —true
My answer —false
From page 2341 of the text: “Probation centers, where persistent probation violators reside for short periods.” vs. “restitution centers, where those who fall behind in restitution are sent to make payments on their debt,”
It seems obvious from the text that probationers are sent to restitution centers and not to probation centers to make payments on their debts. This is how I read it the first time and how I made note of it while studying the chapter and it is how I recalled it during the exam. I am having difficulty seeing how this could be interrupted else wise other than just ignoring the text or perhaps flipping a coin.
Exam Question:
Approximately 47% of inmates are housed in medium security prisons.
Exam answer —true
My answer —false
from page 2371 of the text: “There are 438 medium-security prisons in the United States, (holding 43 percent of state inmates). ^2900 Ibid. Appendix Tables 512 and 1113.
The exam question doesn’t specify whether these prisoners are federal, state, or both. This said the only way I found to obtain the 47% figure from the question is to start from this value (47%) and then to find 92% of it, – it being the 92% figure found in the text on page 2364 as follows; “nearly 92% of which are operated by the states and the remainder by the federal government and private companies”. – Which then produces the figure 43.24%, the value cited by the text page 2371, (above) as the percent of “state inmates”. So while the figure – 47% may be technically correct post some massaging of various values given in the text – (its relative importance would seem a bit tangentially derived and enigmatic in its role here i.e. as the basis for an exam question/answer.) By this I mean it seems less a measure of one’s working knowledge/understanding of the content and more of a kind of cerebral – idiosyncratic exercise of an implicit/inferential vs. explicit/deductive working of the material – (which Mithras’ protect us) may in fact be the intent here? (Or it may be just plain guessing – hence the word “approximate”) Still I would be curious as to the numbers of those answering correctly vs. incorrectly; and how those in either group formed their choice(s) as I seem more disposed to chose incorrectly in these cases due to actually having based my answers on the actual material from the text.
I mention this question because upon review of the chapter I have been unable to find a direct reference to the value 47%, (I won’t even get into the relative meaning of “approximate” let’s just say it could have many degrees of meaning when left undefined) and would like to know whether or not I’m simply being obtuse or possibly too concrete a propos my selection of an answer for these “approximation” type questions. (This not being the first time I’ve encountered this – “actual textual content” vs. “imaginary textual content” – no-win situation.) Now I must admit that whilst talking the exam I had a “feeling” that “true” was looked for answer – which it turns out was the case. Regrettably though, for me I would not allow this tingling sensation to dictate my response; choosing instead to rely on the age old tried and true technique of using the actual words in the text as the source for my answer.
It frankly did not occur to me while reading the material and taking my notes to do this math operation prior to the exam. (See above) – And this could well be my own defect or it could be that the exam material isn’t quite ready for prime time yet. And so it is that I, rather than the above, simply considered the specifics of the subject matter and its relationship(s) to the greater body of the information as a whole. Putting to memory as best I could what I thought were the most salient facts and figures plainly contained in the text itself (which are more than a few) and not I must admit, the many implied or derived minutia obtainable therein. Which; as opposed to what I am defining as a sound if somewhat more fundamental working knowledge of the material’s substance – the minutia which while they are derivatives in their composition can or could arguably be of some possible value. None the less seem more ancillary than indispensable in nature re the framework here – i.e. that of basic multiple choice exam questions. So if in fact I am way off in my thinking (very possible) I would like to be aware of this in hopes of avoiding, if I can these same kinds of “divining” errors in the future as I find them very frustrating.
With that in mind rather than personally heuristically grouping for some insight or solution on my own which may or may not be productive I was hoping for a/any suggestion(s) other than using a Weegie board as a guide. For truth be told I oughtn’t think that one’s – ting-ling’s or “best guesses” is a very sound strategy here. Nor for that matter do I see an exhaustive parsimony of the aggregate text as practicable i.e. such as the derivation of 47% from the textually given values of 92 and 43 percent – either on the fly during an exam or generally as a rule when studying the assigned materials on the chance that the aforementioned or its ilk may or may not be stated or asked in some orthogonal manner – unless that is the expectation – in which case I am probably doomed. Failing an alternative solution I can only fall back on this kind of dreary monologue as an appeal or just “grin and bear it” – which much to my continuing anguish is not really as the fates would have it my strong suit.
I say all of this because there have been more than a few; as in quite a few, exam questions with similar characteristics i.e. seemingly bereft of textual causality. So I imagine that what I’m also saying is that in these cases – the information used as the premise for these exam questions’ in question look or seem to be either erroneously associated with the presented given choices or they incorporate a kind of hit or miss ambiguity or looseness which would appear to defy a solid accounting for or connection to the information contained in the text, as opposed to plainly and clearly ensuing from it.

– Lastly –
Exam Question 999:
Most prisons for adults are located in rural areas because of the Quaker idea that inmates needed to be removed from distractions and family contact so they could more easily repent.
Test answer —true
My answer —false
A simple reading of the text would leave the above impression, i.e. that of the exam statement/question as being true. But a closer look would suggest the opposite I think as follows. On page 2460 the text refers to the Quaker belief that “offenders could be redeemed only if removed from the distractions of the city, many correctional facilities still operate in rural areas…” However on page 2467 the text speaks of the “construction boom of the 1990’s”, implying the addition of many more prisons than the numbers of those built based upon the above premise i.e. the Quaker belief in isolation as a requisite condition for redemption. Further on page 2469 the text states, “Most prisons for adults are located in rural areas. Originally, the rationale was that inmates would more readily repent if isolated from urban distractions”… the text goes on …”When more prisons were built later in the 19th century, the country setting was retained”… but … due instead to reasons of “self-sufficiency”… later the text says …”Now, … new institutions are still being built in the countryside… although the choice of rural settings stems partly from land costs, political factors also figure in the decision. This attitude is often referred to as the NIMBY syndrome … this concern prevents criminal justice planners from locating facilities in areas that have the resources and will to oppose prison construction.”
In keeping with the idea of gaining a working knowledge of the assigned material I made note of the above and based my answer on these items together as a whole rather than the twice repeated but still the contextually equivalent reference to Quaker ideology which in my opinion influenced fewer numbers of prison construction(s) in rural areas than have the other more recent rationales given in the text. So while the Quaker idea for rural prison placement may have been true for many prisons at and around that time circa the mid 18th century, it would seem to me that the subsequent, circa 19th century and near recent 20th century rural prison placements are the result of the more contemporary concerns and rationales of those times and that the numbers of these prisons is without doubt greater than the numbers having been built simply for isolation. If my logic and conjectures here are errant I fail to see it. However if they have veracity; then I fail to see how the available answers are connected to the questions. And I have many – questions’ that is…

Sincerely and respectfully, Ifyahdont Ohwell

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