The 2064 National Australian Year 10 Standard Communication Skills Exam
October 19, 2010
You must remain silent once you are within the examination room
Write with a black or blue ballpoint pen.
You have 2 Hours to complete this paper.
This hour will consist of:
–10 minutes reading time
–110 minutes writing time
During the 10 minutes reading time you may:
-read the questions.
-take notes on the yellow scrap paper with which you have been provided.
You may not:
-write in the exam booklet.
During the 110 minutes writing time you may:
-write your responses in the exam booklet.
You may note:
-leave until at least 20 minutes have elapsed.
-cease writing as soon as your supervisor declares that the exam-period has ended.
Failure to comply with any of these conditions will result in a score of 0 being recorded against you.
Task #1: Convey your sentiments about a major sporting or cultural event in which you are interested, through the medium of poetry, short-exposition, or other creative writing technique.
Task #2: Recount an experience which you have had, real or imagined, in Standard English prose.
Task #3: Choose one of the following social issues: drugs in sport; family values vs. popular culture; the role of immigrants in our economy. Write an academic essay on your topic of choice. You will be expected to select and identify your own guiding theme within this area, and draw upon material studied in class, in addition to your own general knowledge.
Name: Peter McVeigh
School: Ethelbury Downs Christian Boys’ College
Class: 843 S.4
Response to TASK #1:
The fibreglass blades
Through the impassioned cries from the stands.
To his right
The concrete foundations of the stadium are ringing out,
Struck by the twice-human weight of muscle
In straining machine strides.
To his left
A paper-cut of a man
Slices through the air
Like a hurt child
Slipping again and again
Out of the arms of air resistance.
It all dissolves somewhere far behind him.
He can taste something sweet in the air,
Like vitamin pills dissolved in water.
And then he’s draped in those cries and their flag:
For our sponsors!
For the love of the game!
Response to TASK #2:
The morning I met Don Fraser… I remember it as clearly as I remember anything. Dr. Rogers was handing back our end of term problem-solving tests, and I remember the feeling of elation when I learned I had gotten the highest mark in the class on it. I don’t remember what it was, I actually don’t even remember what the test was on, which maybe says something about my memory, but I remember the feeling of serenity I had while Rogers was ranting to the class that he was disgusted by our results and the lack of effort and engagement that had led to them. But none of it applied to me. I had come first.
If I’m perfectly honest I have to say that I hadn’t wanted to meet Don Fraser. I wasn’t dreading it, but I spent the afternoon being fairly irritated at having to lose an evening in an old peoples’ home. My mood probably wasn’t helped by having been in a values education seminar, with Padre droning on about Jesus or something.
This was naturally because I didn’t know at the time that I was meeting Don Fraser. I mean, we’re talking about the Don Fraser. He was a historical figure, a legend really. When I used to hear the name I felt like I was meeting a friend, just the name itself had a personality. I guess it was the effect of his achievements. Each one of the eight gold medals at the 2032 Olympics in Qatar was like a character trait. The 10,000m run stood for his tenacity, his courage, the way he started out with that unheard of 3000m pace and kept it going for the whole way. The 800m stood for his grace and genius. When you watch the tapes of him running you can see the perfection with which he does it, the perfect and unrelenting acceleration with which he ran. The sprint, naturally, stood for his power. His sprinting expressed his unshaking certainty, his knowledge of exactly how to win.
If I hadn’t seen it for myself I would never have believed it. Heroes like that seem so alive that you couldn’t picture them in a place like that. In the old days they used to imagine that great conquerors never died, but that they went away to return in their people’s time of need. When I first arrived with my community service group to talk to the old folks, to comfort them in their old age, when I first recognised Don Fraser there in a worn-out old recliner, the thought came to me, he should have gone away, no one should see him like this.
I brought him a cup of tea and some biscuits on a tray (I had to suppress a shudder when the nurse told me they were “his favourite”). It took every fibre of my will to stop my hands shaking so hard that I’d spill it.
He greeted with a “hello, there.” Crushingly, it was the strained, far-off, wispy, grainy voice which you associate with old men. It didn’t surprise me, but I wasn’t prepared to hear it.
I tried to make some kind of small talk with him. It was an honest attempt, even if it was so pathetic that you wouldn’t have known it by looking. I’ve never been able to do small talk. I don’t know what it is. I can’t talk about nothing. I think maybe it has something to do with why I couldn’t imagine Don Fraser talking about nothing.
“You’re Don Fraser,” I blurted out.
He did that kind of laugh that old people do when they go to bellow but it just turns into a hacking fit instead.
“I’ve read all about you,” I gushed to follow on from my blurt. “I’ve watched DVDs of all your races, not just the Olympics, your World Championships races, even your National Qualifiers, I even saw you at the Stawell Gift when you still qualified to run there.
“I want to be just like you.” The words came before I could stop myself sounding like an eight year-old. “I’ve been training since ever I can remember when, as soon as I’m sixteen and I’m old enough I’m going to get my parents to sign off for the operations and the courses of…”
“What’s your name?” he asked me, cutting me off as soon as he could speak over his coughing.
I was thrown off by the question. “Why does that matter?” I stuttered.
After a second I caught myself. “I’m Peter, I mean.”
“Peter,” he said half way between a whisper and the voice of a younger man.
I picked up again where I’d left off before, before he cut me off repeating more severely, “Peter!”
“Look at me.”
Oh no. Why was he doing this? Why was he doing this to me? Why was he doing this to Don Fraser? Why didn’t he go away and wait till Australia’s time of need? Why wasn’t he dead?
“Look where my legs used to be.”
I looked down along where his body extended over the recliner. The performance blades where long gone, as distant a memory as the feet they had replaced. The knees you couldn’t recognise as knees anymore. Not unless you already knew what experimental levels of elite growth hormone and performance-enhancing stem-cell therapy could do. Cancerous masses of muscle tissues oozed out of the skin that just couldn’t grow to cover the (I don’t want to say wound). Exposed ligament hung over it all like ivy.
“You’re Don Fraser,” I insisted, not looking at him.
“I’m in pain,” he said emphatically, leaning in over me as he did.
“The pain is a part of it,” I told him. “It’s a part of being a hero. You did it for us. We need you. It has to be done. It’s a part of the game.”
It was at about that point that I realised the whole room had gone silent. My teachers, my values class, the residents and nurses of the home were staring at me in shock. I got up and left.
The next week a letter arrived to me from Don Fraser. My mother carried it into the kitchen beaming, certain that I would the happiest I’d ever been. I think she wasn’t so much hurt as shocked when I snatched it from her with a surly air, but shocked so much so that I guess it amounted to much the same thing.
I took it to my room and read it. Well, I started reading it. But I realised I had to stop. The letter shouldn’t have existed. I went back to the kitchen and without a word took a plate and, very surreptitiously, some matches back with me. I have no idea what my mother though I was doing. I torched the letter and tried to forget about it. All I remember from the part that I’d read was something about him always having thought that side effects would be for him alone.
I look forward to the day that I will forget that little bit too.
The 2031 deregulation of performance-enhancing medicine was a controversial event in the history of sport, but also in the history of our wider society. It mirrored in our culture the culmination of a long struggle in our values. The opponents of the change, defeated but not forgotten by their shrill minority of descendants, made the argument that freedom of achievement would sacrifice our ‘humanity’ and bring suffering into our lives for perverted aims. But the only thing that was perverted in the debate was their rejection of the essential character of man, in defence of the vestiges of his evolution. True life is pursuit of human greatness, and sport is the highest expression of that pursuit. Thus the 2031 deregulation an unambiguous step forward for our culture.
When the World Olympic committee called for a public debate over the introduction of drugs, the forces against were well organised. The media was seized from the starting-gun by arguments about drugs in sport that had to do with anything but sport. Athletes were role models, we were told. If they were to dope themselves to experimental levels, to induce mutations even, or, as would be suggested and implemented in the wake of the triumph of the deregulation movement, to ‘mutilate’ themselves with mechanical performance-enhancing appendages, efforts to advance public health would be catastrophically set back. The two-thirds of young people left outside of the War on Drugs Camps would be bombarded with advertisements about the power of experimenting with substance abuse to solve life’s problems. And this, not by pushers and pimps, but by an international, taxpayer dollar funded body. Even parents, determined that their children should achieve the best in life, would be tempted to push their children’s bodies to their physiological limits in trying to ensure that they would not be left behind in the competition of life.
But athletes, of course, are not role models, they are athletes. We don’t prevent accountants from sitting down on chairs all day, out of fear that they will influence young people to become nerds and ruin their physical conditioning. That’s because they’re not role models, they’re accountants. To the contrary we expect accountants to develop their nerdiness as much as possible, because the needs of the economy are served by them achieving their full possible greatness in their sphere. No one worries that after they have been used and discarded, accountants will burdened by their nerdiness, or that children will have their chance at being normal taken away from them by parents pushing them towards nerdiness in trying to make sure they’re not left behind in the competition of life.
And that’s because competition is life, which a silent majority has always recognised. As the debate wore on through late 2030, and into January 2031 this majority started to assert itself, and make its voice heard. There is suffering, the voice said, but that is life. We must always choose between evils. The pain that deregulation may bring may very well be real. No one would be prepared to say it’s impossible. But is that anything to compare to the suffering that deregulation’s opponents want for us? It might not be as graphic, but suffering it certainly is. A society where people do not strive to achieve, where some are held back so that others may wallow in their mediocrity is not a society we want to live in any longer. There is the pain of broken dreams, all the more tragic, as they are the dreams of our best and brightest. But quite apart from that is the mounting, all-pervasive malaise of despair as the nothingness and unachievement of the preserved people mounts from generation to generation. Yes it would be cruel for society to force them to compete against ever higher standards, against which they may finally break and cease to exist. But crueller still is it to put off their day of reckoning to an indefinite future, where nevertheless they must surely die, the sole question being, them alone, or dragging us down too?
Thus it is clear that the deregulation of sport had to happen. It is not really even the case that drugs were introduced into sport. They were always an integral part of it, in so far as they were the natural and necessary path to greater human achievement. They had always been there, waiting for us to set ourselves free.