Jeff Harrison questions the motivations behind multiple-choice, machine-graded exams. Dr. Lionel Gift, the economics professor in Jane Smiley's classic novel about academic life, Moo, provides a complete answer:
Dr. Lionel Gift was all set. His summer-weight suits were packed, as were his Egyptian cotton dress shirts, undershorts, and socks. he had a spare pair of glasses, a swimming costume, a silk robe, a hat with a wide brim. He had his laptop, his modem, his internal communications program. He had his tickets and his money.To name merely one especially egregious instance in which sloth motivated resort to multiple choice, I recall one law professor (since retired, to the great benefit of his law school and his students) who had not updated a multiple choice exam during my lifetime. And I'm as old as the Super Bowl!
As usual, his exams would be given out by his graduate assistants and graded by the university computer. These grades would then be added to those already on the computer from the midterm, tallied according to a statistical curve, and reported to the students. By then, Dr. Lionel Gift would have been in Costa Rica for over a week. Let it snow let it snow let it snow: He would not be here to see it, and that suited him perfectly.
The following table illustrates how life differs for Dr. Lionel Gift and those who take his exams:
|Dr. Lionel Gift||His students|