by Jonathan Bergman
WHS students are gearing up to take the PARCC standardized tests later this month. Many have chosen to spend extended periods of time studying for the exam, just as they would with the SAT and ACT. This Hi’s Eye reporter found one student’s story especially telling of how PARCC affects the mental state of test-takers. Take sophomore Alex. He’s your average WHS student: hardworking and decent at time management. But according to his mom, studying for PARCC has left her son a broken man. “He hasn’t left [his room] since early March,” complained his mother. “I’m worried about him,” she said as she stirred her coffee aimlessly.
Unable to get her son out of his room, I conducted the interview there. The ambiance of his room reminded me of 19th century sanatoriums: books strewn about and obscure etchings on the wall that seemed to be geometry problems. The only sign that hinted of the 21st century were the detailed PARCC cohort seating arrangement diagrams plastered on his walls. His walk-in closet now displayed an altar devoted to the PARCC consortium Governing Board. Pictures of each board member were adorned with flowers and lit by scented candles. The photo of New Jersey’s board member, commissioner David Hespe, was garnished with jewels and the decay of what appeared to be a sacrificial lamb.
In the center of the madness sat Alex. He was hunched over a laptop wearing nothing but underwear, covered by a raggedy blanket. His eyes, the only portals to his soul, showed true fatigue. I doubt they had blinked in the last week. On his dim computer screen was a practice PARCC essay and an obscure reflection of his face. Looking at him reminded me that happiness is but a finite emotion, one that this poor fellow would be unlikely to experience again.
I asked him why he was studying so hard and how he was feeling. To each question I received silence—the ultimate answer. His dark, empty pupils told the whole story. Alex was nothing. His unrelenting studying for PARCC had reduced Alex to a shell of a human being. Incapable of feeling, incapable of learning, incapable of loving.
Just like the cattle we feast upon during our most jubilant celebrations, Alex, domesticated at WHS, was destined to be devoured by the PARCC. Such is the lot of all mankind. Not defeated by gallants in battle, but in battle with the most basic human desire: success. Tempted by success and digested by the burden of our endeavors. The march to victory, the battle to beat the PARCC exam, is only a nail in our coffin.
So is it better to have strived to do well on the PARCC and end up broken than to have never strived at all? This is the question of our time. If Alex could still communicate, I’m sure he’d answer the latter.
This article appeared in the April Fool's edition of the Hi's Eye.