Names and specific unimportant details in the story have been changed. This really happened, though. At least, I remember it happening.
I took AP Psychology not because I was interested in the ideas of Skinner or Freud, but to boost my GPA. It was senior year of high school, and I was locked in a losing battle to have the #1 class rank. I took all the advanced classes I could, hoping the two girls with perfect GPAs would slip up. I specifically hated AP Psychology as the teacher, Mr. Jones, insisted we outline every chapter of the book and create and abundant supply of psychology flashcards. He didn’t seem to mind that my outline consisted of copying the first sentence of every paragraph, just that it got done.
That said, Mr. Jones had an amazing track record of students doing well on the AP test, with all five students who took the test the previous year getting the highest score possible. Who was I to question the method?
I was easily distracted in that class, mostly by the two rats Mr. Jones kept as class pets. They were named Mike and Ike, each with it’s own cage. The purpose of the rats wasn’t clear to me, as we never used them in Psychology class, and they certainly weren’t being used in the World History class he also taught. It was difficult to differentiate between the two rats, other than the fact that Ike had a golf ball sized tumor protruding from his belly. He seemed unaffected by it, though, fighting off the cancer by mercilessly burrowing through the wood pulp bedding that made up the floor of his glass cage.
I walked into psychology class one day near the end of the fall semester to find copy paper haphazardly taped around Ike’s cage, as if to block us from seeing what was going on inside. One of my classmates asked Mr. Jones about the strange arrangement, to which Mr. Jones replied, “As you know, Ike has cancer and is in a lot of pain, I’ve decided to end his misery.” A look of shock spread through the class. He continued, “I crushed up some pain killers and mixed them in with his morning pellets”.
Raised eyebrows and dilated pupils were plastered on my classmates’ faces. I’d learned in this very class that was a sign of the activation of the sympathetic nervous system, the classic ‘fight or flight’ response. Although a logical solution to Ike’s fatal condition, during the middle of the school day didn’t seem like the appropriate time to euthanize the class pet.
We could hear Ike furiously scratching at the side of the cage, attempting to escape before the poison halted all his gross motor functions.
The sound of claws on glass grew to a crescendo, and Mr Jones’ responded by speaking louder, as if to mask the cries for help.
Ten minutes later, the scratching slowed down, until it ceased completely. Ike had met his maker, in the middle of 2nd period Psychology.
There was another session of Psychology the following hour. They confirmed there was no further scratching coming from the cage and that Ike was kaput. You can’t kill an animal in class, can you?
I told my Mom about this incident later that night. She didn’t seem too concerned. Mr Jones was an interesting fella, and no students were harmed, right?
I walked in the next day anxious for whatever lunacy could top yesterday’s class, only to find Ike alive scurrying around his cage, right as rain. A major plot twist to yesterday’s horror show.
The bell rang marking the start of class, and Mr. Jones jumped into his lecture, apparently trying to cover up the attempted murder that happened a mere 24 hours prior. I raised my hand, “What happened to Ike?”
“What are you talking about?”, Mr Jones replied.
“Yesterday, when you crushed up the painkillers and put it in his food, remember?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about…let’s continue on with operant conditioning, we’ve got a lot to learn today…”
And that was that. The topic of Ike’s near overdose on pain killers was never brought up again, until this blog post.
I’m not quite sure what happened that fateful day in Mr. Jones’ AP Psychology class. My best guess is that we must have been the subjects in Mr. Jones’ demented Milgram-esque experiment. I dropped the class for the spring semester and took late start.