December 19, 2005

The new blue books.

I just picked up one of my two stacks of exams, and I see we have snazzy new blue books. Before, you knew they were the blue books, because they were, like, blue, and they were books. Now each one says BLUE BOOK in giant block letters. I know, already. Are they trying to cheer us up with a brand new attitude toward taking and grading exams? There's also a tagline across the top:
Just let your thoughts run wild ... as you apply the Erie doctrine. Or is that advice addressed to me? I am kind of using my imagination by writing a blog post about the front of the blue book, but no one needs prodding to think of new ways to avoid the task of grading, and being imaginative while grading would be evil.

And what's with trademarking the phrase "use your imagination"? As if all the other blue book manufacturing companies would want to horn in on the idea of printing bad advice on the cover.

All right. All right. I'll concede that there are some law school exam questions where some controlled use of imagination would be appropriate -- for the student. Never for the teacher.


tefta said...

No picture?

Gabe said...

Ann - Blue books are for making outlines in when you take the exam on the computer right?

Lets hope my crim professor uses his imagination when he reads the last paragraph of my long hypothetical - I believe I supported something with a rule that does not exist.

Too bad when he prints the essay from the electronic format, it won't say, "Use your imagination" on the top.

Ann - I have a brief question regarding warrants that I didn't want to clog the other thread up with - If warrants were available up to 72 hours after the wiretaps begun, why wouldn't the administration take advantage of them (for no other reason than to forestall this type of "scandle"? Is it because they are relying on authority outside of FISA all together?

Forgive the baseline of ignorance with which the question comes - I'm a month away from starting con law...

Ann Althouse said...

Tefta: You'll have to use your imaginationTM.

Gabe: We haven't moved to computers for exams yet! We are about to. As to the other question: I'm just not an expert on that law. I don't want to throw out low quality opinions on this subject. I've got some low quality opinions on other subjects I'm willing to put in writing however.

jeff said...

I loathed blue books. I bought perfectly servicable paper in notepads and everything else - buying these special little (overpriced) books just for taking tests because they were an affectation of the teacher's seemed monumentally stupid.

Evan said...

At my temporary university (University of Washington... the other UW), we have "blue books" and "green books," which are green-colored exam books made out of recycled paper. Using a green book is a mark of social virtue - buying the blue will get you disapproving comments in the examination room.

Gabe said...

Ann - Thats why I didn't go to UW. That and I would have had to get a divorce to do it!

reader_iam said...

In reading your post, the minute I got to the "Use Your Imagination Part," the PBSkids theme song started running through my head:

"Use your imagination/Think of what you can do!/Use your imagination/PBSkids and You!

My kid used to sing that all of the time, up until fairly recently.

DUMB phrase to trademark. I tend to be a copyright/trademark conservative, but I do think it's gotten way out of hand, with really generic and pedestrian and ordinary phrases being put of limits.

Opinion strictly worth the price.

Travis Wheatley said...

reader_iam - Do you have any good examples of generic stuff? I'm an examiner at the Trademark Office, so I try and keep an eye out for bad ones. The best I've seen is "NATIONAL HIGH SCHOOL CHAMPIONSHIPS" for, get this, high school competitions. Granted, it was on the supplemental register, but I don't know how it got there, and the owner is trying to get it put on the principal register, arguing it has acquired distinctiveness.

BeckyJ said...

Ann are your bluebooks still blue? I have three stacks of "bluebooks" waiting to be graded and they're actually pink, green, yellow, and blue. It's like looking at a bunch of Easter eggs.

Actually, what I've been putting off are the papers....agh, freshman papers. The horror, the horror!

Richard Fagin said...

That and they charge you money for the damn blue books, which seems a bit like asking a condemned man to pay for the bullets used by his firing squad.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

In my first semester of law school, my criminal law professor refused to hand out the blue books until one hour into the exam. I FREAKED OUT. I began writing the essay and it took the form of a limerick. A fifteen stanza limerick answering the darn question. I got the exam book, excused myself to the typing room and wound up with a dean's list grade on the test. Lenny K. will always have a place in my heart for that little trauma.

CCMCornell said...

Over here, some of the books are white-covered, but they're still called blue books. Personally, I hate them - the pages are too damn small. And, when writing furiously during a timed exam, my writing tends to be overly big and widely spaced. Plus, I like to skip lines so I can easily and clearly make edits.

I really hate them on physics exams because with nested radicals and fractions, free-body diagrams and other drawings, space fills up so damn fast. Then, when moving to the next step in calculations, you're constantly flipping back pages to refer to previous steps.

I wish we'd ditch these stupid little books. Full 8.5"x11" printing paper for physics exams!

And for writing exams, I think you could go a step farther than switching to full-sized, lined paper. A lot of my classes have been on honor code, so the exams were mostly unproctored - even closed-book, closed-notes take-home exams. I think if you're going to be that trusting, just let people use their own computers to type up their exams. No professional CBT solutions in computer labs - just regular old AbiWord. That's right - AbiWord.

CCMCornell said...


DUMB phrase to trademark. I tend to be a copyright/trademark conservative, but I do think it's gotten way out of hand, with really generic and pedestrian and ordinary phrases being put of limits.

Then, you'll love this.

Travis Wheatley said...

For what it's worth, that mark was canceled back in 2004. It was only for "booklets in the field of creative writing", so I doubt Mr. McLeod had much success against AT&T.

onelmom said...

Travis Wheatley: the best one I ever saw was a media trainer who trademarked "The Acknowledegment. TM," - a method for answering a reporter's question without actually answering it.

And my favorite example of The Acknowledgement TM is, "I've heard that."

The proctor for my Contracts PC exam last night spent a good chunk of time right before the exam admonishing us to be good stewards of the bluebooks we were given for outlining purposes. She finds it disturbing when students waste a perfectly good blue book by making one line of notes on the first page and then going on to the computer. I felt actual guilt for a second when I inadvertantly ripped off a piece of my own unused bluebook to dispose of my gum mid-exam - but only because this particular proctor reminded me of my grandmother who says similar things at similar length at similarly inappropriate times, but always with the best of intentions.

Considering that this proctor also shared with us (pre-exam) a lengthy list of "things that happen to your PC after the exam which look scary but really aren't," it's a wonder this woman wasn't forcibly removed by an angry mob of 1Ls.

knoxgirl said...

Ugh, just the words "blue book."

Maybe because I'm a graphic designer and way too anal about some things, but: those books are all wrong. The size, the spacing... taking an exam is bad enough, but having to write in that format. I repeat, ugh.