My hand is cramping from overuse and my palm is clammy and covered in sweat. I don't know how much longer I can last….
No, I'm not masturbating.
I'm taking a blue book exam in English 420.
(The names of the classes and professors involved have been changed to protect the rainforest. And not just any rainforest; FernGully: The Last Rainforest.)
Chances are if you've ever taken a history or literature class you've encountered this same testing format. While the percentages are not kept track of on the administrative level or by any single department, it's safe to assume that practically any short answer or essay test given at Towson University is done so using a blue book and a writing utensil. Pencils and pens are cheaper than water and a blue book will cost you a mere 24 cents at the University bookstore; a pretty good deal by any standard, but we'll get to that in a second.
It makes no sense to expect evidence of knowledge in the typed word all semester and then suddenly switch to handwriting for exams.Up until now, if you're like me, you probably never questioned the merit of a testing format used so extensively at the university level. I attended the University of Maryland prior to Towson and blue books were used almost exclusively for a wide range of classes; the only difference was that they were provided by the school (how nice). When you're dropping tens of thousands dollars to essentially listen to other people tell you how to think, it's a nice perk when they aren't trying to nickel and dime you for line-ruled paper and staples. Kind of like those free lollipops at the bank!
But beyond the petty and materialistic nature of profiteering off of a testing accessory (Bemiss-Jason, the company TU purchases their blue books from, quoted me a price of 15 cents a book for an order the size the University would make) and inconveniencing students campus-wide by making them swing by the bookstore before an exam they're already late for (not that this has ever happened to me personally), the simple fact of the matter is that the blue book represents an outdated and unfair manner of testing a student's knowledge.
Don't believe me? Well, you're wrong. I have a feeling this happens to you a lot. Let me explain why that is: I'm smarter than you. If those two facts don't seem like they really correspond with one another, that's just you being stupid(er) again.
In today's day and age the computer has taken the place of pen and paper and this is especially so on the academic level. Papers, presentations, and even most homework assignments are only accepted in a typed format. An increasing number of students are also bringing their computers to class and typing their notes; is anyone going to argue that any of these trends aren't going to increase precipitously as time progresses?
It makes no sense to expect evidence of knowledge in the typed word all semester and then suddenly switch to handwriting with no other provocation. But beyond just not making sense, it's outright unfair.
Simply put, I can produce a much higher quality essay while typing as opposed to hand-writing, and I am willing to wager I represent the overriding majority of the student body in that regard. There's valid reason for this too: typing is faster, more accurate, more efficient, and more in demand than its archaic counterpart.
Is there any field or vocation that a Towson graduate would be going into after graduation that's going to require more handwriting than typing? Calligraphy perhaps? Maybe we should require students to learn how to joust while we're here throwing around superfluous skill sets required for graduation.
Is it beyond the capacity of the University to administer short answer and essay-based testing in a computer lab?But not only would my essay be longer, more developed, and have fewer errors, I wouldn't feel like I'd been power-drilling a 300-foot screw for the last 90 minutes. Beyond the physical affliction of my dainty wrists, the sum total of all these advantages is a more profound essay or answer. And that's really the kicker; beyond sheer efficiency, the difference will be found in the level of quality of every student's papers and essays given the same conditions otherwise.
In the aforementioned midterm my ability to display my mastery of the subject matter was literally curbed by the fact I had to handwrite it. I knew 420 and everything that related to it backwards and forwards, yet the fact that society itself essentially deems handwriting passé has limited my prowess and endurance writing with a pencil or pen. In fact, outside of grocery lists and the occasional check, I struggle to even name another facet of my existence that at this point is reliant on handwriting.
I'm not saying that we should abolish this exercise altogether; it's served human society and academia well for thousands of years now. But fuck, if we're going to switch things up when midterms and finals come around, you might as well hand me a fucking chisel and a slab of stone. At least that way I'd have something heavy to hit the teacher with when I was explaining how asinine his or her test was.
Is it beyond the capacity of the University to administer short answer and essay-based testing in a computer lab? The Center for Applied Information and Technology was afforded a budget of $1,268,750 for the 2009 fiscal year (Towson's yearly projected budget, including the Center for Applied Information and Technology, can be found here). I can't imagine the burden of funding a more equal testing environment isn't in the best interest of the University. And how expensive could it really be in the end? There are already computer labs in Linthicum Hall, how much work would it be to set up some sort of timed word processing program with minor security concerns put in check? The University already has seventeen full-time IT employees, and as we've already discussed, a well-funded IT department. I say we cut those cyber-punks' allotted daily World of Warcraft time in half and institute a fair and equitable environment in which to test our students.
I'll tell you what else, I'd have no problem shelling out the previously allotted 24 cents a pop for the testing. In fact fuck it, I'm feeling generous today, let's call it a dollar even you stingy unfair bastards.
Concerned about FernGully or just the rainforest in general? Check out the 100% recycled alternative to the blue book, the green book made with 30% post-consumer waste, here: www.blankbook.com