I recall this first happening in fourth grade at Reese Elementary School in Lubbock, Texas. It has since been repeated thousands of times.
Mrs. Hagan instructed our class that if we came to a test question we didn’t know the answer to, it was better to “guess” and take a chance, than leave things blank. That hit home with me because I was leaving more blanks than anything else.
On our next quiz I did quite well. I don’t remember the amount of questions guessed, but I was correct on a majority of them. I got an A on that paper and verbal accolades going along with such. The grade wasn’t as significant as discovering that guessing was exciting, and in a strange way, made learning fun. It was much like a television game show without the expensive prizes.
I tried to completely guess the next couple of tests without studying and failed miserably. I wasn’t the only kid picking up this poor educational habit. After several weeks, students were re-instructed by Mrs. Hagan to leave things blank if they didn’t know the answer. At this point, I couldn’t return to my old ways as I was hooked. Several boys in my class had the same addiction. I suppose my pastor would say it’s akin to gambling, although I didn’t view it that way back then.
Throughout life I’ve used guessing in many areas. If I didn’t know the direction to a specific location, I guessed on which road to take. Sometimes I was right yet the majority of time I was wrong. I didn’t have a problem with being lost, because I saw things along the way that I’d never come across otherwise. Unfortunately, GPS took care of that problem if you can call it that.
I’ve guessed on driving test questions, employment applications, financial questionnaires, which line to get in at the drive-thru pharmacy, what grocery store checker was quickest, which wrench or socket to use, how old a person is, and the list goes on and on.
I don’t guess as much as I once did. These days I pray about what to do when an important decision is needed. Prayer isn’t used in areas unimportant. On those occasions, I turn to Honest Abe Lincoln to make my decision.
Do I want a Hobo omelet for breakfast or blueberry pancakes? Abe not only takes care of that decision, he becomes part of the tip.
A friend told me that some California schools are thinking about using two-answer multiple choice tests, instead of three and four. Students will only have a choice between A or B. I suppose this is to give underachievers like me a better chance on guessing the correct answer.
Had that been the norm in 1963, I’d be asking my teacher come test day,
“Mrs. Hagan, do you have an extra pencil and a penny?”