I’m sifting through some files of material from Englishy courses I took in college (yes, I still have those papers) and come across a final examination from an American Studies course on Ethnicity and Dissent in American Literature and Art (Professor Bryan Wolf) in spring of 1997. The first question reads:
I. CUPCAKE QUESTION (20 minutes, 10 points)
Peer long and hard at the cupcake before you. Write an essay on the image or symbol that appears on it. If the cupcake has no image, make up your own. If the image is too blurred to read, write an essay on the difficulties of interpreting and decoding racial narratives. If none of the above appeals to you, then eat your cupcake and write an essay on ethnicity, food and the culture of consumption.
I do vaguely remember the experience of this exam and question. And yes, they gave us each a cupcake! I am totally stealing it for one of my classes in the future. I’ll save you from the horrid response I wrote though I did get 10 out of 10 points! I wrote about segregation. The response begins, “A chocolate cupcake topped with a thick layer of white vanilla frosting sits, half-eaten, to my left,” and uses phrases like “basic right of all humans,” “inherently wrong,” and “unwillingness on the part of people to associate with others.”
Another thing I noticed on the exam that I’ll probably steal is the last question asking for our least favorite reading and favorite art discussed with accompanying reasons. I think it’s a brilliant idea to make this feedback question a part of the exam (unsurprisingly, I got full credit for the question — as did probably most people). My response was much more detailed than anything my own students have ever given me in evaluation forms. That might just be me but probably has to do with the exam context, too.