The Spaces Between Your Fingers

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Context: I interviewed Anonymous at the Papadakis Integrated Science Building on Drexel University’s University City campus.   Anonymous’s K-12 education occurred in the Middle East.  The Middle East has a very testing-centered education and the focus is put on performing well on the exams and achieving high grades.  Students are tested three times a year to determine mastery of the subjects and whether or not the student has passed the grade.  In 10th grade, the final exam at the end of the year, termed the pre-board examination, decides what major the student can go into and prepare for in their final years of high school.  
Original artwork by Victoria Palochik.

As Anonymous stared intently at her pre-board examination, she could feel the beads of sweat collecting on her forehead, her throat tightening, and her hands becoming clammy as she gripped her freshly sharpened number 2 pencil.  She peered at the test that would decide her future in complete and utter dismay.  As the hands on the clock slowly crawled closer to the start of the test, more and more panic rushed through her body with every passing minute. 

               Before she could conjure up another frightful thought, the teacher spoke up, “Begin now.”

Staring straight ahead, Anonymous inhaled deeply and opened her exam. 

Upon sight of the first question, a rush of emotions coursed through Anonymous’s body, filling her with fear, anxiety, excitement, and dread.  Anonymous had been preparing for this exam since the very first day of class.  She had put in the long hours studying, late nights dedicated to homework assignments, and working on independent-study projects.  However, she could not help but feel overwhelmed by the pressure.

Quietly whispering to herself, “You can do this.  You CAN do this.  You know the information.  You can answer the questions.  Show everyone else that you know the information.”

And with that, Anonymous redirected her attention to the first question of the exam:

As you study two closely related predatory insect species, the two-spot and the three-spot avenger beetles, you notice that each species seeks prey at dawn in areas without the other species.  However, where their ranges overlap, the two-spot avenger beetle hunts at night and the three-spot hunts in the morning.  When you bring them into the laboratory and isolate the two different species, you discover that the offspring of both species are found to be nocturnal.  You have discovered an example of:

A.Facultative Commensalism

B.Character Displacement

C.Batesian Mimicry

D.Mutualism

E.Resource Partitioning

Anonymous carefully read the question, analyzed each answer choice, and defined every term.  The weight of performing well fell heavily on her shoulders and she knew she would live with a lifetime of shame if she failed.  Hesitantly, Anonymous circled her answer: Resource Partitioning.  As she continued to move through the test, the uneasiness and unsureness she had felt only intensified more.

Her thoughts were overruled with images of her failing grade, forcing her to stay back and repeat the year. 

The teacher spoke up once more, “Time is up.  Turn your examination in to me at the front of the room.”

After breathing a sigh of relief that the exam was over, Anonymous was once again filled with fear anxiety, excitement, and dread towards what her score would be.  As the days passed, Anonymous tried to keep her mind occupied and away from thinking about the exam and her score. 

Finally, the day came.  Anonymous’s heart rate picked up, her breaths shallowed, and her body tensed.  Then, like ripping off a band-aid, she opened up her examination book.  Time stood still as Anonymous read and re-read her score. 

She did not fail.  

The Test of All Tests

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June 2005
Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Context: I interviewed Anonymous at the Papadakis Integrated Science Building on Drexel University’s University City campus. Anonymous’s K-12 education occurred in the Middle East. The Middle East has a very testing-centered education and the focus is put on performing well on the exams and achieving high grades. Students are tested three times a year to determine mastery of the subjects and whether or not the student has passed the grade. In 10th grade, the final exam at the end of the year, termed the pre-board examination, decides what major the student can go into and prepare for in their final years of high school.
Original artwork by Victoria Palochik.

Recorded by Victoria Palochik on June 6, 2018
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