I’m just going to put my proposal out right away: Students composing handwritten essays (especially during the SAT) should be given the option to type them. The year is 2014, where my 12 year-old brother has his own laptop dedicated to playing Minecraft. My boyfriend’s best friend has not spent a penny on college textbooks because he found PDF versions for his iPad. When my mom tells me to find pen and paper to write something down, I swipe over to my Memo app on my cell phone. The future is now and we should take full advantage of it.
I only know a handful of people who are comfortable with composing essays. They can transcribe their mental essay into a physical essay word for word, or they can quickly write up an outline to follow and work in the details as they go. Snaps, claps, and kudos to them, but here’s how my (and I’m sure, plenty of other people’s) thought process goes during an essay (throwback to junior year 2011, the SAT):
Finally decided on a topic 10 minutes into my allotted 25. Got it. I’ll write about that book. “In this novel, the protagonist…” Wait, what was his name? It starts with a W. I’ll fill it in later, though I don’t know how much space to leave. “…learns how to become an adult with the help of Martin, an awkward 12-year-old boy whose-” Oh, his name was Marcus. Should I erase everything? Cross out? Scribble? “…whose alcoholic mother-” This sentence sounds lame already. Can I just start again on the next page?
So you can see the problem in just one sentence. We are being graded on how well (or fast) we can think of an appropriate topic, organize our thoughts, and write them down eloquently in 25 minutes. But as Augustus Waters laments in John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, “My thoughts are stars I can’t fathom into constellations.” It’s not an easy task because we are also being graded on how fast we can write without our hands cramping, how long we can take the pain of those cramps, and how neatly we can manage to write despite the pain (because there’s no point in writing an essay if it isn’t legible to be graded). The solution: computers…yay!
If I were typing the essay of SAT, it wouldn’t matter how much space to leave for the protagonists’ name; I’d just highlight and correct the boy’s name; and CTRL+A then DEL to restart the essay. Repeat the process for the rest of the essay that, if handwritten would’ve taken the full 25 allotted minutes of the SAT essay portion, complete with hand cramps. Instead, with typing, it’d probably take much less time with much less pain.
I’m sure we’ve all heard the fears (or complaints) about not handwriting things anymore: “But then everything will be done on computers and people will forget how to physically write! People don’t know the meaning of a handwritten letter anymore with texting and social media. Kids won’t know how to write their signature or read cursive writing.” This is not an article about technology over old ways, but I will say I don’t think embracing typing is as disastrous as some would make it out to be. It’s simply practical, especially in such a high pressure situation as taking the SATs.
The realistic goal of students is to get a good job later in life. At this point in time, we’re evaluating how well students will perform at their future job based on how well they performed in college. How well they performed in college is linked to how well they performed on the SAT. And how well they performed well on the SAT is partially based on how well they could perform while being held back. According to Pew Internet, 95% of teenagers used the internet in 2012. I’m going to take some liberty here and say, with that much internet use, it’s somewhat safe to assume this 95% knows how to type, and they’re used to it. We should take advantage of that. Leave students in their element, and let them type out the essays that are so important for their futures.