It happened on April 10. There I was, sitting in an old, musty room located inside the Fisher Science building. My bayonet was raised, steel ball loaded; I was seated on a stool at the head of a war room. I prepared for a charging onslought ready to hold my ground. Soon the rickety desks and red bricks would have visitors — inanimate objects turned alive with weary soldiers lost in thoughtful gaze. The calvary’s charge sounded with a horn, the bell tolled — 9 a.m. The fog crept over the streets as the first student stepped over the line into enemy territory — instantly she was thrust into battle.
Boom! The first cannon shot grazed by as the blonde student checked in with flash of her ID and receipt. Hurry, get down! Pick any seat, but pick a winner.
The battlefield crowded with rebels, some barely alive, some bright-eyed with anticipation. I cut through the anxiety with my 12-inch blade, cracking jokes and receiving aplause for my strategic tactics. Retreat was not an option, so I carried the colors.
Whizz, Pen-cuw! “The Graduation Writing Requirement (GWR) is a CSU-mandated program designed to ensure that students can write proficiently before they enter the professional work force.” (Taken straight from the Cal Poly website, the statement holds students’ future in its iron grasp and there is nowhere to go until the grip is loosened.)
Cha-keww! Zing! Close call but a poorly aimed shot. Rookie.
More shots fired! All students seeking a degree, including master’s degrees and teaching credentials, must fulfill the GWR.
Pak-eeeww! Shew-uww! That one barely missed: Undergraduate students must complete 90 units before they can fulfill the requirement.
Crack, pa-ding! Getting closer. Damn Yanks.
CHAAARGE!!! To graduate, students must either pass a GWR class or take the Writing Proficiency Exam (WPE) — a “two hour expository essay that tests your ability to organize and develop ideas, make and support generalizations and use language at the level expected of and appropriate for a college graduate.”
Pa-choo! Fwwip, thud. Bullseye.
Take a seat and let’s get started, your life depends on it. That’s what I really wanted to say that Saturday morning as I prepped the lecture hall for spring quarter’s WPE exam. Merely a lieutenant, I waited for students from all majors — all walks of life — to make their way into the door, which I am sure looked like a hole leading into an academic abyss.
And I — you see, I was on the other side of the fight, so to speak; this day was an event, a spectacle — it was a sight to see. In case I didn’t make it back I alive (officer’s are prime targets in war), I soaked in the moment in order to retell it, this was a piece of history; so I documented it with mind’s eye.
I’ve already passed the WPE and just need to jump through all the other hoops and get out of here. Ha ha! I shouldn’t laugh, for this series of tests are no laughing matter; in fact, I agree with many of the big-whigs: This test sucks.
Or does it? In my opinion, possessing the ability to write, effectively, shows one’s worth in this world. It is just as important as, say, talking (speaking, discussing, conversing, etc.), or wielding super-duper math skills (of which I have none). And to be an effective writer is “divine,” as Stephen King says.
While you might be expecting more, as this transition is no doubt jarring, I must wrap up this page buster. I’ll finish with a series of perhaps, maybes and coulda-shoulda-wouldas.
Perhaps those who look at writing with a disgusted glare are lacking some other quality — to them I say change your lens. Perhaps those who give themselves a “bad” writer’s label choose to be ineffective with the pen (or keyboard, nowadays) — to them I say quit putting labels on things. Perhaps those who loathe writing are numbers people (I, personally am a “words” guy) — to them I say … I am jealous.
Maybe you are one of those who think writing tastes bitter, and you like the sweetness of constructing homes and health centers (still need to know how to write, sorry). Maybe you have better things to do than keep a journal, like study mitosis in lizard cells (you still need to know how to write). Maybe you just don’t care and that’s fine; but when the time comes to dress up in a funny dress and square hat as you shake a jolly old man’s hand with a smile while your family and friends hoot and holler, you might want rethink your use of the word “like” after every damn word (writing and speaking go hand in hand, rid that word from vocabulary, please).
I don’t have much for the should-could-would. My word bank is empty. However, you know the test is coming, you hear about it throughout your college life, so, in the meantime, arm yourself. Whether it’s the WPE knocking or the GWR class rocking your brain, there will come a point when you’ll have to buckle up, young chap, and face your adversary.