The 2012 Summer Olympics are in full swing now. You have to hide under a rock to avoid finding out how the contenders are fairing. The social not-working sites are abuzz with all the stats, successes, failures, and highlights of the events. Even in my house, the girls are playing "Yimpics" complete with "stwetching", "simming" and "dibing". And, it's breathtaking to watch these athletes. This is the moment they have trained for their entire lives. Years of coaching, trials, competitions, exercise, no desserts, no social life nothing but preparation to get to this one defining moment in their career - possibly their entire life. You can't help but get nervous for them; a wobble on the beam, a late start of the block could change the course of the entire event. But, this is what they have been coached to do their entire career. They are the best of the best and it's time to compete on a world level.
What if the Olympics were handled like standardized testing in education?
Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte step up to the starting block for the 400 meter Individual Medley. They have prepared mentally and physically. They have trained for years about what to expect during the competition by coaches, parents, experts and anyone with a pulse and an opinion. Just before the starting gun sounds, the coach is handed a script and a microphone:
(Blows into mic) Um...I have been asked to read this by the No Olympian Left Behind Officials. "The Olympics are designed to elicit the athlete's skills in order to assess their mastery of the subject being tested. During the 400 meter Individual Medley you are expected to complete the following strokes: butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and free stroke. Each lap must consist of at least 4 lengths (100 yd. or m.) and no stroke must change mid-length.
We will also be throwing in some obstacles you have not been prepped for, as your coach was unaware that we will be testing you in this manner. Just do the best you can.
Oh, by the way, if you "fail" in this test, you will not be allowed to leave London. And your coach will be fired. And your training facility will become a pariah and most likely be closed down. You will probably end up living in a van down by the river with a tinfoil LOSER medal. All because of this one race based upon a NOLB act that was created by a group of people who have never competed in the Olympics and may or may not know how to swim."
The NBC cameras turn to Bob Costas for commentary on the race:
"The starting gun fires. Shocked but trained like Pavlov's dogs for this start, the swimmers dive head first into the water. The butterfly stroke begins. So far, strong beginning as nothing out of the ordinary has happened. The athletes gain some confidence that all their years of hard work and preparation has paid off. They get to the end of the lane, roll backward and begin the backstroke. Wait. I believe jellyfish have been released into the pool! The swimmers are trying to dodge poison laced tentacles attached to Ziploc baggies of venom. A swimmer in lane 6 has been zapped and sinks. What a blow to the team from Lithuania. It looks like that country will officially be banned from NATO for this epic failure.
Lochte and Phelps have trained in Florida, so they have experience with jellyfish. They are still very much in this race. Fingertips touch the wall and the third lap begins! We are halfway through this competition folks! The 100 meters breaststroke. France is still on the heels of Phelps and Lochte. And, oh, what is that? Electric eels? Well, it looks like the South African team has a slight advantage, since this is where these eels originate. Lochte is stung but fights through the pain! What a professional. China is officially out of this race as their star athlete has been paralyzed on the right side.
It's a close race as we hit the last lap of this medley. Most of the swimmers are employing the front crawl and it's a good thing. A giant helicopter has dropped a bag of chum in the pool. The swimmers are clawing their way through the guts as three sharks have entered the competition. The great white swims toward lane 3 and...ooh...That had to hurt. This race is not for the faint of heart people. Nor PETA.
A bull shark has its sight set on Phelps. Phelps glances behind and loses a little bit of his lead. He cannot change his stroke or he will be disqualified.
Phelps, Lochte and France's Yannick Agnel are up to their necks in sharks. They reach the end of their lanes, touch the walls and scramble out of the pool. This has been quite an event folks! And, we will get the final results of this back to you in 3-4 months. Thanks for watching the 2012 Summer Olympics!"
Which, makes just about as much sense to me as standardized testing for children as a basis for their subject matter mastery...