The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.” Ludwig Wittgenstein.
Secondary school students in New Zealand have recently finished sitting their end of year external examinations. One of those papers was a Level 3 History exam, in which final year students were asked to respond to this quote from Julius Caesar: “Events of importance are the result of trivial causes”.
After the exam, 1300 students signed a petition asking that markers not downgrade their answers if they hadn’t understood the meaning of the word ‘trivial’. The gist of their argument was that ‘trivial’ is not a word that seventeen and eighteen-year-old English speakers in 2018 can be expected to know, and therefore, for fairness, a definition should have been included in the exam paper.