After I recieve my degree
I willingly took bonehead English in
college. Economics dictated my decision. I could either pay $20 to take
an essay exam at Santa Rosa Junior College or earn $210 a month on the
G.I. Bill by taking remedial English during summer school. I decided
bonehead English would be my first paid writing gig.
Life often comes full circle.
Two weeks ago, I worked my steady but
infrequent job at The Company That Grades College Essay Exams. We score
the tests used to determine whether a student needs to take bonehead
English in college. Since we're all sworn to secrecy, I can't tell you
the name of the company, but I can tell you the name of the exam. It's
called the TASP test, which stands for Teachers Annoying Students
To become a TASP test scorer, you need to
have an English degree (believe it or not) and teaching experience.
Fortunately, my one year of teaching bonehead English at Sonoma State
University qualified me to destroy young lives. It takes a village to
raise a child, but it only takes a couple of evil fucks with a #2
pencil to ruin him forever.
We grade the essays on a scale of one to
five. An essay earning a score of one would be pretty much illiterate,
while a score of five would likely be better than anything I could
write on a first draft.
Let me give you an example of an essay
earning a score of two. Here's the prompt question:
- Who would you invite to speak at
your school and why? How would the students benefit from the speaker's
- In this great country of the United
States of America, we are faced at our college with the task of
bringing a speaker to speak for the benefits of the students. Many
people like artists, entertainers, comedians, talk show hosts, Michael
Jordon, and other industry leaders would qualify. But I offer to you
one that rises above all: Magic's Johnson.
- Althoug suffering from the dreaded
AIDS, Magic's Johnson is still impressive. He's a community leader and
looked up to, not because of his size but because of all the good
things Magic's Johnson has done.
- True, he became famous on the
basketball court, but he's also done charity work. Magic's Johnson has
reached out to the community and its time for us to extend a hand.
Because of his success, on and off the court, he will inspire students
of all races and ages, even busness majors that usually don't attend
these speakings. He will be well recieved.
- (I must stop my writing now to tell
you. A student taking this test keeps looking over at my paper. His
name is Hector. He should be punish.)
- I beleave the appearance of Magic's
Johnson could change student's lives forever. I know just to get a
glimpse of him would change mine. I vote for Magic's Johnson for guess
speaker. I hope you join me in this effort and that I have convinced
you to pull for Magic's Johnson at our school.
- Pablo Rabinowitz
I don't know why, but we get a lot of
essays written as letters. English teachers must tell them, "Write the
essay as if you were writing a letter to a friend," or some such tripe.
While the above composite piece (no, it's not a real essay) is slightly
exaggerated, here are some authentic examples.
THESE EXAMPLES ARE SECRET AND
CONFIDENTIAL, SO PLEASE KEEP THEM TO YOURSELF.
"Dr. L. was a colonel in the U.S. Marine
Corporation." (For crissakes Herman, you need to divest yourself of
that crummy USMC stock.)
"I think he should be the guess speaker."
(I kind of like this one. Haven't you been to a lecture and thought,
"Who the fuck is this guy?")
"He's very family oriental." (Sure, I'm a
regular Joe. But when I'm at home with the wife and kids, I like to
think of myself as Chinese.)
"He can hold his composer." (No more
Mozart for me, please. I'm driving.)
"His voice is not only audible, it's
convincing." (As opposed to those wholly unpersuasive deaf people.)
"This leads to attention defecate
disorder." (I'm so distracted, I could just shit.)
"Not all college students come from a
well-endowed family." (But my parents have been featured in Penthouse.)
"All works and no plays make Jack becoming
dull." (I heard that.)
Here's my advice to students taking the
1) Lie if you have to. ("Attendance
records show a 77% increase in turnout for a celebrity speaker when
compared to a relatively unknown speaker." Trust me. Nobody's going to
check your facts.)
2) Baffle them with bullshit. (Similar to
the above, but with more bulk. The difference between a score of two
and a score of three can often mean MORE WORDS.)
3) Not too many words, though. ("Bill
Cosby is not just a TV star, he's also a pediatrician.")
I also have some advice for all the
English teachers who are helping students prepare for the TASP test: At
the very least, please teach them how to spell the word receive.
I swear, if I see it spelled recieve one
more time it's going to stick that way.
* * *
STANDARD DISCLAIMER: This column aims to be funny. If
you can read anything else into it, you're on your own.