Common Core: 12th Grade English Language Arts : Complex or contested usage: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.11-12.1.B

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Example Question #1 : Complex Or Contested Usage: Ccss.Ela Literacy.L.11 12.1.B

Adapted from “On a Certain Blindness in Human Beings” (1900) by William James

Some years ago, while journeying in the mountains of North Carolina, I passed by a large number of 'coves,' as they call them there, or heads of small valleys between the hills, which had been newly cleared and planted. The impression on my mind was one of unmitigated squalor. The settler had in every case cut down the more manageable trees, and left their charred stumps standing. The larger trees he had girdled and killed, in order that their foliage should not cast a shade. He had then built a log cabin, plastering its chinks with clay, and had set up a tall zigzag rail fence around the scene of his havoc, to keep the pigs and cattle out. Finally, he had irregularly planted the intervals between the stumps and trees with Indian corn, which grew among the chips; and there he dwelt with his wife and babes--an axe, a gun, a few utensils, and some pigs and chickens feeding in the woods, being the sum total of his possessions.

The forest had been destroyed; and what had 'improved' it out of existence was hideous, a sort of ulcer, without a single element of artificial grace to make up for the loss of Nature's beauty. Ugly, indeed, seemed the life of the squatter, scudding, as the sailors say, under bare poles, beginning again away back where our first ancestors started, and by hardly a single item the better off for all the achievements of the intervening generations.

“Talk about going back to nature!” I said to myself, oppressed by the dreariness, as I drove by. Talk of a country life for one's old age and for one's children! Never thus, with nothing but the bare ground and one's bare hands to fight the battle! Never, without the best spoils of culture woven in! The beauties and commodities gained by the centuries are sacred. They are our heritage and birthright. No modern person ought to be willing to live a day in such a state of rudimentariness and denudation.

Then I said to the mountaineer who was driving me, "What sort of people are they who have to make these new clearings?" "All of us," he replied. "Why, we ain't happy here, unless we are getting one of these coves under cultivation." I instantly felt that I had been losing the whole inward significance of the situation. Because to me the clearings spoke of naught but denudation, I thought that to those whose sturdy arms and obedient axes had made them they could tell no other story. But, when they looked on the hideous stumps, what they thought of was personal victory. The chips, the girdled trees, and the vile split rails spoke of honest sweat, persistent toil and final reward. The cabin was a warrant of safety for self and wife and babes. In short, the clearing, which to me was a mere ugly picture on the retina, was to them a symbol redolent with moral memories and sang a very pæan of duty, struggle, and success.

I had been as blind to the peculiar ideality of their conditions as they certainly would also have been to the ideality of mine, had they had a peep at my strange indoor academic ways of life at Cambridge.

As used in the passage, the bolded and underlined word "warrant" most nearly means _________________.

Possible Answers:


legal document



Correct answer:



This question interrogates your understanding of a word with multiple conflicting definitions. The most common definition of "warrant" that you may have heard is in connection to the legal system. "Warrants" are legal documents, usually taken out against individual citizens by the government or police, enforcing the government's ability, in specific situations and with cause, to search or imprison specific persons. Another definition, queried in the given answer choices, refers to something, usually an action, being made necessary given particular circumstances. Used in a sentence, "Kevin's actions warranted serious discipline." In this instance "warrant" functions as a verb rather than a noun. Here, however, this definition does not make contextual or grammatical sense. Applying the final answer choices to the sentence, we see that "authorization" makes less sense than "assurance," contextually. Grammatically, either would be possible, but clearly an "assurance" of safety is the preferable option.

All Common Core: 12th Grade English Language Arts Resources

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