What's So Funny

I've never been a good test-taker. I get nervous during an exam, overthinking the simple questions and replaying entire episodes of DuckTales in my head during the difficult ones. Sometimes, for no real reason, I'll just have a good cry.

In high school, when the AP tests fell on top of each other like a bus full of passengers that suddenly slammed on the brakes, I was a mess. AP Literature begat AP Chemistry begat AP Spanish. In order to simultaneously prepare for all of them, I had to determine what each test would most likely drill us on, then ignore anything I considered irrelevant information. For AP European History, for example, I decided that the Opium Wars were superfluous, because whenever we'd asked our teacher about that topic, he'd just make some drug joke. So when I got through the fill-in-the-bubbles section of the AP Euro test and moved on to the essay section, what do you think an entire question was devoted to? All together now: the Opium Wars!

I was seized by the same panic I'd felt as a child when I followed the wrong pair of legs around the supermarket, only to realize somewhere in the cereal aisle that they were not my mother's: I was unprepared, terrified and alone. And oddly hungry. That's when the bleeding started.

It began as a single drop, but quickly evolved into a red river of shattered nerves pouring out of my nose like a flash flood. I tried to stop the flow with a piece of paper from the blue book, but that only made it worse. Soon the entire class was staring in horror as I struggled to expound nonsensically on the Opium Wars with the top of my T-shirt shoved impossibly far up my nostril. By the time I excused myself for the bathroom, I had covered my entire shirt and at least 30 percent of my exam in blood.

I was shocked to receive a 4 on the test -- as shocked as the grader must have been when presented with my blood-covered scrawls. The only possible explanation is that the scorer saw the blood, noted that the test had been administered at an inner-city high school, and took pity on the boy who valiantly persevered despite multiple gunshot wounds to the face. What I learned that day was that you should never, under any circumstances, try to understand the mindset of those who evaluate academic achievement.

Thank God I never had to take the CSAPs. I might not have lived to tell the tale.

Because the CSAPs are so ass-backward a method of evaluating a school as to defy reason. Read: Bush educational policy. Students in grades three through ten are tested in reading and writing, with the older kids also quizzed in math and science. The results fall in four performance levels: unsatisfactory, partially proficient, proficient and advanced. Under No Child Left Behind, the lower the scores, the lower the school's achievement rating and the lower the federal funding -- leaving more money for the smart schools. Did I mention that this president used to execute retarded teenagers?

Schools lamely preach that the CSAPs are good preparation for the standardized tests that students will have to take for college, knowing full well that they are just an asinine hoop the schools must jump through for funds. Still, jumping is the only way, which is why children who have their parents sign permission forms allowing them to opt out of the tests are making a mistake -- and consigning themselves to underfunded schools that rely on free AOL disks for their computer labs.

So take the test, kids, but don't knock yourself out. Instead, halfway through, just shove your finger so far up your nose that you hit oblongata. Then aim the resulting droplets of blood at the Scantron sheet and feel proud when your school can finally afford to educate you about the Opium Wars.

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Adam Cayton-Holland

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