Bottomline Bodybuilding


Back in the dark ages when I was in junior high school, (what is now referred to as "middle school"), my classroom had an interesting and somewhat degrading method of seating the students. We were placed according to our academic record. In other words, the student with the highest grade would be in the first row, first seat. The next "smartest" student was in the first row second seat and so on down the line. All the subsequent seatings were arranged in a steady decline of praiseworthy placement all the way down the line to the lowliness of the last row, last seat. That's where I sat.

Yes, I had the lowest grade in the class -- barely passing in fact. One more demerit and it was off to the class for the learning handicapped, or as they so sensitively put it back then, the "retard class."

One day, the English teacher, Mr. Westerly, came in with a surprise test, much to the chagrin of everyone present, myself included. But this wasn't something that would go on our final grade. It was meant more of an evaluation of the student's capabilities.

"Mr. Westerly! Mr. Westerly!" shouted one obsequious student in the front row.

"Will it hurt our average if we don't do well?"

"There's no passing or failing on this one," the teacher assured.

This concept, as common as it may be now, was lost on this clan of adolescent baby boomers. The teacher went on to say; "I don't expect anyone to do that well on it, but do your best. If you answer half of them right I'll be very impressed."

"What if we get a 100?" another kid exclaimed.

Mr. Westerly smirked and said, "No one will get them all right. College students at major universities who finish in the top of their class don't get them all right."

In an effort to appease what was obviously a moot point the teacher said; "If anyone gets all of these questions correct, I'll buy them dinner, alright?"

As the papers were handed out, I had a slightly more enthusiastic approach to it than the standard tests which I had so miserably failed to comprehend. This wasn't a test of what we were taught, but of what we could figure out on our own. I liked that. And besides, it didn't count.

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