Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Testing: Music History

Music 304: I don't actually get into history that much. I like history if it's, say, historical fiction, or King Tuffett talking about castle ruins as we walk through them, or the Horrible Histories books, or a personal story, or me studying some aspect of history for my own knowledge. But I don't like history classes.

I had high hopes going into Music 304, since I had taken a history class previously from the teacher. He had also been the conductor of the orchestra I was in my freshman year.

But alas, it looked to be a dismal semester: the grading was based 100% on testing. There were four tests total, three of which would include essays, all four of which also included a listening test (to be taken at the library) and a multiple choice test (to be taken at the testing center). No other papers to write. No projects to procrastinate. No attendance to worry about.

I went to the review session with the assistants before the first exam, where they told us what to write in the essays, and what to study to pass the test. I paid mild attention. I took the test. I got a 100% on the listening portion, did pretty well on the multiple choice, and got a D on the essays.

A D.

A D is not acceptable. Especially not on essays.

I paid better attention in class. I took more notes. I did more of the assigned readings. I went to the review session for the second test and recorded exactly what they were looking for in the essays. I studied hard, then took the test.

And got a D- on my essays.

As the third test approached, I was starting to panic. I could not get another D. I am not a person who gets Ds. The day got closer and closer, and I became more and more stressed. But then I realized something: I didn't care.

I hated Music 304. The class was horrible. The teaching was lackluster. And nothing I said or did had any bearing on the class at all. It didn't matter if I learned anything or not, as long as I could mark the right answers on the test. And the essay, the one graded area where I might have been able to use my own thoughts and analyses to draw up my own conclusions, were no more subjective than the multiple choice. It didn't matter how well written they were, or how well-argued: if they weren't what the teacher had outlined, they weren't going to pass. The class allowed for no individual thinking--it was simply regurgitation at its finest.

When I finished the multiple choice section of the third test, I read through the essay questions. I didn't know the answer to any of them, nor did I care. I opened my blue book and wrote the following inside:

I choose to not write these essays.

I then closed the blue book, wrote a big 0 on the front where the score goes, and handed it in. It felt wonderful.

I was a bit disappointed when they handed back the essays a few days later and failed to return mine. I kind of wanted to see it again. But I guess they figured I already knew what my score was.

My final grade for the class was a C+. It is my favorite grade on my transcript.


Olive Kite said...

You have a FAVORITE grade on your transcript? Now, that is cool.

Olive Kite said...

I remember meeting with you and a woman named Heidi YEARS ago, and Heidi said, "Betty, you're years ahead of yourself," or something like that.

Well, I think your attitude towards that class and the resultant grade show that you are indeed AHEAD of your YEARS.

schmath said...

I HATE music history essays! I remember taking one of those classes, I think it was from the romantic period, but it was the skinny teacher with huge glasses. Anyways, I got a 37% on my essays! I was totally mad. We had to write a research paper too, and mysteriously, only the front page was marked on everyone's essay. I think the TA graded us based entirely on our opening paragraphs.

Betty Edit said...

See, Olive? I really am just as old as you! ;o) I think I might remember that actually. Who was Heidi?

Schmath, I wouldn't be surprised if that were true.

Olive Kite said...

Heidi is someone I met at a conference (and saw at subsequent conferences). She's an exceptional writer.

I'm not sure what she's up to now. I know that she adopted a special needs child, and I don't think she has (or will have) any time for writing.

And how could you possibly be as old as I am? She said you were years ahead, not decades, not centuries. If I'm over 100, then there's not even a chance that you are near my age.