Over this past weekend, I had a conversation about standardized testing, specifically the OPT (Ohio Proficiency Test), the passing of which is required of all Ohio high school students in order to graduate. It is, to put it lightly, an absurd week-long extravaganza that does nothing but take away from a student's learning experience. I had largely forgotten about test until it was brought up the other night, but the conversation made me think of two things. The first is a pun that goes something like, "The OPT? Can I opt not to take it?", which I really wish I had come up with back in ninth grade when it would have been applicable. The second is this story about the last day of my testing, which does a lot prove both that anxiety disorders are crippling and that standardized tests are terrible judges of proficiency:
The last day of the OPT consisted of writing essays based on given prompts. You had two prompts, and a certain amount of time to brainstorm and write for each one. I can't remember both of the questions, but I know one of them was something along the lines of "if you could meet with anyone in the world, alive or dead, who would it be and why?" The classic. For a lot of people I'm sure this was easy, and they chose someone who was classic themselves like Jesus or Einstein and breezed right along. However, I am a very meticulous writer that takes extra time to plan out and over think everything I put down, so I usually struggled during standardized tests to finish essays during the given time. This time in particular I was also worried about passing all the sections of the test, because if you failed one you had to take it over in the spring and that sounded awful. These factors combined served to generate the opening stages of panic at the start of the tests, namely a touch of the shakes and the complete inability to run a mental process.
Our time began and I read the question. I read it over again. I'm sure I did this several times before anything else happened, because that's what I usually do when I start to panic. The meaning of the question sunk in eventually, and then I began the desperate search through my brain for a person worthy of being written about, which proved entirely fruitless. I couldn't think of a single person. It was as if my state of total distress caused me to forget that anyone else had ever existed. However, I did remember that I had seen some people on television at some point, so I decided to pick one of them to write about.
I disregarded everyone from all fictional programs immediately. I couldn't write about someone that wasn't real. I just couldn't, though in retrospect this may have been the better route. Somehow I came to Barbara Walters. How this happened is hard to recall, though I know immediately after it happened I thought, "No! Not Barbara Walters!" which of course kick started the second stage of panic, a complete and somewhat irrational fixation on a single object or phrase. I assume my brain does this as a coping mechanism, as if to say, "There are far too many things to worry about here, so I'm just going to pick one of them and worry about it with all of my worrying capacities. All the other things can just go fuck themselves. There's nothing I can do about them anyway." It's most unhelpful.
So there she was, trapped in my head, and clearly not going away any time soon, so I did what I had to do. I wrote about Barbara Walters. I wrote about her with all the frenzy and incoherence my short-circuiting brain could muster. As for what I actually said, your guess is as good as mine, as I seemed to have blocked out the essay's content out of either sheer inability to store information properly at the time or self-defense because it was just that bad. The only one who knows anything about that essay now is whoever it got sent to for grading, who I'm sure could only assume it was the work of an unfortunate, deranged soul (which it really kind of was).
But surprise! I passed. Pity may have had something to do with it, but still, the product of my temporary insanity was deemed a worthy response. Either that, or no one actually read it. Both possibilities prove that the standardized testing system is flawed.
I have no transition for this, but I went to the Columbus Zoo today. My cousins were taking their children to Boo at the Zoo, which is basically just a frightening number of children in costumes running from exhibit to exhibit collecting candy. I didn't actually know I was going to Boo at the Zoo when I drove up, and I was a little annoyed when I found out what the day was going to entail, but you know what? The zoo is awesome. They've got some crazy stuff in there, like this:
Is that not the cutest wild animal you've ever seen? Yes this image is from San Diego, but it was on the first page of Google images and Columbus wasn't. Anyway, it's called a Pallas' Cat, and it's from Central Asia. I had no idea these things were wandering around the planet until today. I also got to see a lot of little kids in Spiderman outfits, which is almost just as cute.