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THE CELL DIVIDES
It's Just Cytokinesis As We Know It
By Jennifer Wray

Pickerington, Ohio, and the outlying area are known for flat swatches of farmland, tract homes, and high-achieving students. It is God's place, a place where meetings begin with prayer and end with polite inquiries about one another's health. The students, who drive their parents’ American flag-emblazoned SUVs to school, are apple-cheeked and always, always sincere.

But I have seen the town's dark side.

As a reporter for a community newspaper, scads of press releases fall across my desk. They alert me of impending annexations, lawsuits about impending annexations, city council meetings about impending annexations, and similar flotsam. There is an occasional notice about a "kangagator" (a half kangaroo/half alligator mascot educating area youth about dental hygiene), but the releases are generally dull enough to turn an insomniac narcoleptic.

But this one was different.

The release said, in part: Honors biology students will be presenting the third annual Karaoke Biology program...

That was all I needed to see. I taunted my co-workers with my find—they were busy writing about school levies—and put in a phone call. I discovered that Karaoke Biology is the brainchild of Ms. M, a longtime teacher at Pickerington High School. The singing started, she said, after she was given a karaoke machine for her birthday some years ago.

Every year, her honors biology students are required to sing for their peers. They choose a song, topic, costumes, props, and at least 10 facts incorporating biology jargon into their revamped tunes. I needn't hear anymore. I headed to Pickerington High School with hope in my heart and annexations a distant memory.

***

I arrived and walked into the school’s media center, a sterile room filled with electronic doodads. I secured a stiff plastic chair, nestled amid a gaggle of bezitted teens, and let the first song begin.

All right...stop, calibrate, and listen/Genes are back with a brand new mission/Instructing each bodily function/Doin’ their job, jus’ so you can be somethin’.

Three guys—all of whom my mom could maul in a cage match—were dressed like minigangstas, clad in baggy, rolled-up warm-up pants, white wife-beater shirts, and camo bandanas. They strutted around, singing a Vanilla Ice rip-off, "Genes, Genes, Baby." The crowd screamed as if they were central-Ohio pop stars.

Intelligible rapping, I wrote in my notebook. That was quite a feat, compared with the following acts.

One of the horrors came from a four-person group (two guys, two girls) covering the A*Teens, a Swedish group aiming to be the new Abba. The students’ act was a box-step filled nightmare. The two boys sang dolphin-pitched lyrics about mitosis while the two girls glared at them, cursing the boys, their two left feet, and their tin ears.

Without alcohol to aid in karaoking, the afternoon grew painful. When three performers broke into "Old McDonald (Had a Genetic Disorder)," I almost longed for an annexation. The simple barnyard tune left the three performers stumbling over lyrics like:

With a blood clot here and excessive bleeding there/here a clot/there a clot/ everywhere a clot-clot...

It's best not to repeat what they sang about Down syndrome.

After the show, I talked to several of the girls who sang "No Sex," an abstinence ditty set to TLC’s "No Scrubs." Playing the dutiful journalist, I asked them if they enjoyed the performance, if they’d learned anything by researching for their song.

They both said no. They hated singing and didn’t learn anything from doing it. One of the two said, angrily, that she would never do anything like it again.

This was a terrible angle. I scooted over to another section of the media center, where a group of freshman sat, and got them to say what I needed—the karaoke was fun, if a bit silly, and they couldn't wait to sing when they became seniors.

My duty accomplished, I headed back to the office and waited for 5 pm to take me away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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