WPE still keeping students down

Greg Kane

Intellectually stimulating. A shot of adrenaline to what was becoming my lagging interest in school. A chance to broaden and enhance the writing skills with which I hope to make a living someday. While planning my transfer to Sacramento State this semester from the coal mines of the junior college system, these were only a few of the colorful phrases I naively used to describe what I thought the challenges of a four-year university might hold for me.

When my turn to register came around in mid-January, I grabbed my catalog like a greedy child, tearing through the pages to the Journalism section, where a buffet of great classes jumped off the page and said, “Take me! Take me!” I made a list of everything I would take: “Advanced News Writing,” which would help to sharpen my newspaper articles; “Magazine Writing,” to develop my feature writing; “Advanced Editing, Design and Production,” must-have skills in the real world, as well as many other classes that now escape my memory, probably due to the fact that I was never allowed to take any of these courses.

My problem, of course, stemmed from the fact that I hadn?t taken the Writing Proficiency Exam (WPE), a test that all juniors must take in order to assess writing for upper division classes. Until I fork over a $25 fee (yes, I have to pay the University for a test it?s making me take) and complete the exam, I am effectively frozen out from all the great writing classes I want to enroll in.

Apparently the numerous English composition courses I was required to take and pass in community college weren?t enough to “assess” my writing skills. Am I the only person who thinks this thing is absolutely ridiculous? By the time a student reaches their junior year at a university, they?ve written hundreds of papers and essays for both high school and college classes. There are lower division writing classes that have to be taken in order to be eligible for the more advanced classes. If these factors don?t assess a student?s writing skills, how can one test make any difference?

The worst thing is, and I hate to sound arrogant, but I know I can write. I?ve been doing it for a long time, working on college and local newspapers in addition to writing fiction and umpteen papers for school. However, the fact that I have not yet paid homage to Sac State?s writing gods by taking the WPE has blocked me from any classes where I might infect other students with dangling participles and double negatives. Way to keep the dangerous elements out of the classroom, guys!

I?ll take the stupid test. I plan on taking it seriously, too. A friend of mine, who I know to be an exceptional writer, failed on his first try after having some fun with his exam (when asked to write an essay on twin studies, he began with, “Being a twin who recently was reunited with my long-lost brother, I?d have to say that there is some merit to twin studies?”). I suppose the WPE will just have to be one last roadblock on my way to a challenging education.That is, until registration next semester, when I?ll surely be met with yet another completely ridiculous requirement that I will no doubt have to pay for.Greg Kane is a staff member of The State Hornet and can be reached by e-mail at [email protected].