Do high school teachers still require writing short essays in class? Beats me. And, if they do, how are they written: pen, pencil, computer?
During “my era” we used pencils. Then, when I got into college, the writing-related courses had typewriters: that seemed like a quantum leap, and probably easier for teachers who no longer had to decypher their students’ bad handwriting. Unlike a room filled with laptops, a room filled with Selectric typewriters going at once was rather noisy.
While some students typed like they were trying to poke holes in a pile of clay in art class, I typed fairly fast. Most journalism students did because we all grew up with typewriters. But this isn’t the tapping I’m talking about.
In-class essays were typically about something we purportedly read as homework and were usually a minimum of 150-200 words on subjects like “What was yellow journalism?”
For most students, the word count was more important than the content. So, they’d write a sentence or two and then count the number of words they had. They counted the words by tapping on each word with the point of their pencil. So, it was write, then tap tap tap tap tap, followed sometimes by a sigh when the student realized s/he was lightyears away from the minimum word count.
Naturally, these essays didn’t have a lot of unity, coherence, and emphasis because they kept going until the word count was reached. Finally, after all that tapping and counting up the words, the essay just ended. Most of the essays came back with a lot of red ink that spoke to a lack of organization. I hope NaNoWriMo entries aren’t written this way.
I can’t help but smile when I think about all that pencil-point tapping as students counted and re-counted the words on the page.
On the other hand, some students got to the minimum word count with ease, but ruined the essay by saying “Yellow journalism was caused by a mistake at the ink factory that turned black ink into yellow ink.”
Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the contemporary fantasy “Sarabande.” The sequel to “The Sun Singer,” “Sarabande is available on Kindle, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook.