The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0414 Thursday, 12 February 2004
Date: Wednesday, 11 Feb 2004 13:10:55 -0600
Subject: 15.0402 Hamlet Survey?
Comment: Re: SHK 15.0402 Hamlet Survey?
>Yes or no answers just aren't that interesting, and simply don't
>shed light on most of Shakespeare's writing.
Let me suggest another angle on this question of essay versus
questionnaire. A witty wag once said that there are two kinds of tests:
one that assesses factual knowledge ("cow") and one the ability to write
("bull"). Pure bull without cow (e.g., a review of a controversial book
written by an able writer who knows not what he is talking about, but
writes convincingly to the uninformed), nevertheless is in some sense
(not the moral sense) admirable but insufficient and often highly
misleading. Pure cow without bull, e.g., high score on multiple choice,
but without understanding (e.g., good memory; potential for learning) is
also admirable but insufficient. Obviously a good test will test for
cow-for facts that the teacher (not just the student) thinks important
to know, that is, for signs of having read closely-as well as for
bull-that is, for signs of having read thoughtfully, even deeply.
However, many a clueless student has scored high on either a
multiple-choice test (good memory; successful cheating) or an essay test
(good writer; consumer of Cliff Notes). I wonder if one tested the
factual knowledge of high-scoring essay writers, one wouldn't find a
surprising amount of ignorance of the facts of Shakespeare. Even some
of those admirable ones who can quote Shakespeare ad lib-" . . . .
these fellows of infinite tongue / that can rhyme themselves into
ladies' favours"-will prove ignorant of the deeper meanings and
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