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Daughter, sorry for unfair exam


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Dear Phoebe,

I just wanted to say I’m sorry for that four hours you will never, ever, EVER get back.

In my defense, I truly thought it was a good idea when I suggested it — and I am grateful that you obediently, yet reluctantly, agreed. I know it might sound like I’m making excuses, but you did such a great job on your SAT last year, and since your highest score was the writing section, it seemed like taking the ACT, especially the timed writing section, would round out the ol’ process.

One would think that since you follow two sisters into the world of university academia your mother and father would have gotten more adept at this guiding game. But I must admit, I may have felt an unusual tinge of “mom-of-a-senior” peer pressure during the last senior parent meeting — which is when the dumb idea of taking the additional ACT began to fester in my mind.

I now confess it was a dumb idea, and I was wrong. And I’m sorry that you had to miss your 8 a.m. Saturday kettlebell workout to take your $50 ACT.

After much thought combined with the fact that I’ve been doing research on what makes good writing great — I’m sorry that I had you spend an extra 30 minutes (after the three-hour regular test) to write an instant ‘essay’ response on “Effects of technology on teens in society today.” I fully understand now that a 30-minute essay response on a prompted subject cannot possibly give a true reflection of any students’ writing ability.

There are many things you can do in 30 minutes or less, but creating good writing is not one of them. An exception might be writing a grocery list, but I have yet to produce one without continually revising it several times.

Even the great writers of today and yesteryear have communicated that taking the time for revision is the key to writing well:

“Books aren’t written. They are rewritten” — Prolific writer Michael Crichton, a doctor trained at Harvard Medical School who wrote numerous bestsellers, including “Jurassic Park” and “The Lost World.”

“I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent re-writer.” — James Michener, historical fiction novelist and Pulitzer Prize winner for “Tales of the South Pacific.”

Popular essayist and professor of nonfiction writing at Ohio University, Dinty Moore calls it vigorous revision: “It is not uncommon for me to be six or seven full drafts into an essay before I realize, ‘Aha, that’s what this essay is going to be about.’”

And, beloved daughter, just to prove that I was absolutely and unmistakably wrong, I found some research conducted by the National Council of Teachers of English titled “The Impact of the SAT and ACT Timed Writing Tests.”

Quote: “The kind of writing skill required to do well on short, timed essay tests has little instructional validity. Given only 30 minutes to write the ACT essay, students will likely produce a kind of writing that is necessarily formulaic and superficial ... writing that is very different from the complex writing expected by most college instructors, who tend to discourage rapid, unrevised writing especially because it encourages rote organization and superficial thinking.”

Yep, my bad.

Janet Hommel Mangas, the third of seven children, grew up on the east side of Greenwood. The Center Grove area resident and her husband are the parents of three daughters. Send comments to letters@dailyjournal.net.

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