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Just Feeling A Little Testy
By Dave Kiffer


December 26, 2007

Ketchikan, Alaska - Since I am a baseball fan, I have been thinking a lot about steroids and drug testing lately.

I haven't quite figured out the human growth hormone angle. It's not like baseball players are suddenly 7-feet tall and 300 pounds yet.

jpg Dave Kiffer

But I have noticed that a lot of players seem a lot more "buff" lately and the growth of Barry Bonds' head is beyond reasonable explanation, so maybe there is something to all this hoo-haw and that is too bad.

But that's not what I'm here to prattle on about. I'm interested in the idea of random testing. Not just for drugs, steroids or HGH.

This occurred to me recently when I "prepped" for my bi-annual visit to the dentist by madly flossing every day for a month. Not that I don't floss when I don't have an upcoming appointment, but I certainly don't approach it with as much enthusiasm.

Kind of like how I set a date for my physical and immediately start hitting the gym and laying off the cheesecake and salt.

Wouldn't it be a more accurate assessment of my health, if like the drug testers, my dentist showed up at my place of work and said "pee in this cup."

Well, actually he wouldn't have to say "pee in a cup."

All he would have to do is say "say ahh" which would then be followed by "tsk, tsk" and then "you haven't flossed or brushed since Christmas, have you?"

Same with the annual physical. If you got a call from the hospital and were told to show up in two hours, there would be no way that two hours on the exercycle would make any difference.

"Now about that spare tire you're wearing," the doctor would say. "Looks like you been using the 'all season' model a bit too much."

This could also extend to other aspects of our lives.

For example, no one in school really suffers through "pop" quizzes any more.

Teachers really don't want to surprise their students because a "surprised" student is a "failing" student and that is not a good thing, especially when it comes to "progress assessment tools" as they call quizzes.

This is just fine with me because the last "pop" quiz I passed was "Coke or Pepsi?" As usual, I digress.

But is it really an assessment of progress if you prep someone for several weeks in order to pass a test?

Of course not.

The proper way is to have someone show up in class suddenly and start handing out the test forms. If students have really learned something it will be obvious.

And don't we really want to teach students to do more than pass tests?

Well, maybe not. After all, this is a world in which "No Child Left Behind" has somehow turned into a bad thing.

But when you think about it, random testing could also work with such things as drivers tests.

I was thinking about this a few weeks ago when I read that a large number of folks couldn't answer the questions that they ostensibly had answered previously on the written drivers exam.

That is not a surprise.

Once again, you cram for the drivers test. Then you vomit back the information as requested and immediately forget everything.

Wouldn't it be better for society in general to have the traffic cops pull you over and ask you something that would require you to have some working knowledge of traffic laws and driving conditions?

Frankly, the "do you know how fast you were going" question you usually get from the long arm of the law is a pretty idiotic question anyway.

If you answer correctly, you violate your fifth amendment right because, heckfire, the police officer already knows exactly how fast you were going and if you weren't breaking or at least stretching the law he - or she - wouldn't have pulled you over in the first place.

But wouldn't it be better if the officer approached the car and said "How many feet before entering an intersection should you activate your turn signal?"

Or perhaps.

"Good afternoon, sir. What does a black and white striped curb signify?"

Or even

"When parking on a hill without a curb, what direction should you turn the front tires of your car before applying your parking brake?"

And these questions really should take the place of the pre-test too.

It has always seemed a little silly to me to make the student take the written and driving test at the beginning of the process. What could they possibly know about driving at that point?

Let them drive for a couple of years and then test them.

Kind of like we do with the citizenship test.

Would it make any sense to stop someone at the border and say "What are the Three Branches of Government" or "Who was the Ninth President of the United States?"

But getting back to baseball.

My seven-year-old son is getting to the age where he wants to play baseball. That of course requires yet another test.

You know, the one where the kids get in two lines about twenty feet apart and lob the baseball back and forth while adults walk around, scratching themselves, deciding which league or team the child is ready for.

This is always a somewhat weighted test because sometimes the kid across from you decides he'll look better if tosses the ball a little low or a little hard so you have trouble catching it.

Plus this test always seems to take place in the spring hereabouts so there is a natural slickness to the ball.

I - of course - am not ready for whatever disappointment comes to my child from the results of this test.

How about we let him play for a couple of years and then you can come back and give him the baseball "test."

He can "pee in the cup" too at that point.

By then he'll should be able to spell "HGH."

Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Contact Dave at

Dave Kiffer ©2007

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