Tuesday, June 19, 2007

It's over NINE THOUSAAAAAAAAND! Ok, actually, this is just post 94. Give me a few decades, will ya?

Inescapable Distraction

To those perplexed by the title of the previous post, I offer an explanation: It encompasses a great deal of what I hope will eventually comprise the body of that post (I don’t think I’ve finished even the one that’s up there). I will alert you, fair readers, when it has been updated; at present, I have a separate thought to pursue, hence the above title. If this was already obvious to you, I apologize for anything here which you find condescending.

I wrote the board-wide 4U English Exam today, and I did not finish writing the essay. This came as no surprise to me, as this marks at least the fourth consecutive timed assignment involving analysis and writing that I have failed to complete this year. One was an SAT written response, the next was an in-class writing assignment, and after that was the in-class Hamlet essay. I know not precisely how many marks this worrying habit has cost me, but I have the requisite cognitive faculties to be aware that it hasn’t helped. If I didn’t think myself a competent writer, I could be secure in the certainty of inadequacy. Just as it is with electricity, no work is done without potential. Well, I suppose this is also true of kinetic systems, or...well, any system involving energy under (or including) the sun, but I digress, as is my custom, but I...nevermind.

The board-wide exam, ladies, gentlemen, and anyone who escapes classification under the first two terms, is a joke. A cruel joke (which, incidentally, rhymes with "cruel yoke", as in "cruel yoke of oppression). There is no guarantee that every student will read the same books, and yet the very same exam is given to each and every one of them. Instead of giving each potential book (which, given the amount of creative control given to English teachers, could be impossible) one essay question, students taking the exam are given four simple, generic questions, to be answered "with regards to a book studied in this course". This is a workable solution - it should not give an advantage to a reader of any specific work(s) - but it's only just shy of the OCDSB attempting to possess and ingest their celebratory baked goods simultaneously. If both books AND the exam were mandated board-wide, the latter would undoubtedly contain questions of a deeper, and more challenging nature. If neither were mandated, the result would be identical. Instead, the board has chosen the single WORST combination. The essay prompt I selected (I literally assigned each prompt "Noun, Verb, Adjective, or Adverb", and then flipped my dictionary to a random page and pointed to a word with my eyes closed to decide) was, as I recall:

"Conflict in a story arises when a character attempts to avoid or address the central problem in his or her life. Discuss to what extent this is true with regards to a work studied in this course"

Or, to my eyes, "Spend a suggested 90 minutes proving that a given is, in fact, true". Smart people they have at the board, penning these useless and vague questions. Even the sight passage questions were vapour; asking the student to provide "TWO examples of diction", and the like. WHAT IN THE FUCKING HELL IS THAT, "Diction"? They offer you a 1000+ word (est.) passage, and they want you, the student, to find only TWO particular uses of language to examine? Why not ask for an overall evaluation of the language used, at least? It's gorramn hard to single out single words with meaning, when one reads and understands the composition at the sentence level, or even the paragraph/thought level, or at least it is for me. This is the same sight passage they are giving to every student, but the board CANNOT BE BOTHERED to have specific questions written every year? I have the sinking feeling that the exam questions do not change, with only the quotes offered for the personal response questions being changed. It must take one of the School Board automatons four or five seconds to do this (perhaps there is a lengthy selection process behind this, but that's no excuse). This is supposed to be an exam which offers a level playing field for the student, it's supposed to be an exam which the board has concocted out of concern for students. From my experience, it is neither

Yet another thing the exam isn't is fair. Performance-wise, it is far, FAR better to be uncaring, and of average intelligence as a student taking the exam. The questions are generic, and the essay prompts are bland, offering no polarizing statements to galvanize the mind to respond. In short, it helps NOT TO CARE when writing the board-wide English exam. Yes, dear readers, apathy reigns supreme at the OCDSB offices (although this was already proved in the first paragraph). The only counter-argument that I could possibly supply is that the lack of detail is a test, forcing the student to fill out the prompts (by devising a polarizing question on the issue at hand, in the case of the bland essay prompts)... which may be the intention, and would indeed imply that those students of exceptional imagination and resourcefulness would receive an advantage. I can't accept this argument, because it posits that a lack of intellectual stimulation in a question is supposed to have precisely the opposite effect than would be expected. Yep, 'cause we all know THAT happens.

I wish I had a switch in my...let's say my right temple, which would have an "on" setting, and then a sliding dimmer, which would progressively reduce my cognitive abilities, inverse-flowers-for-algernon-(FUCK, I knew that in REACH in the seeding tournament, but I wasn't playing! KHAAAAAAAAAAN!)-style. Actually, I also wish it had increased settings as well, but they're not pertinent here. I could then proceed to dim my intelligence by whatever percentage by which I exceed the average population, and remove all ambiguity and difficulty from my English exam. Anyone else wish they could do that?

I'm off for now, but there WILL be more (as always, I just need to find the time to write it all down)



Daydream Believer said...

I'm an expert on this whole "not caring" thing. Too many years of this standardized nonsense. Hope you'll do well on the next one though.

GoldMatenes said...

"...the OCDSB attempting to possess and ingest their celebratory baked goods simultaneously..."


I'm not going to bother to rant about tests (especially timed essays) because I'd likely just repeat you.

CheeseLikeSubstance said...

I solved the problem on this exam in two ways.

First, decide on the essay you will write beforehand, responding to a prompt of your own devising. Then, select the prompt provided which best fits your essay. The prompts are vague enough to do this.

Second, make it a game. My personal goal was to include as many hidden references and puns as possible. (The thing's to blame, the ring's to blame, the singer's to blame.) Hilarious at the time.

The trick, as you say, is not to care.

Star said...

Not caring is exactly what you need to do. When I wrote mine I had another exam in the afternoon, so I just decided, screw this, i'm gonna do this as fast as possible so I can eat before my next exam. Worked out pretty well for me.

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