NOTICE: Posting schedule is irregular. I hope to get back to a regular schedule as the day-job allows.

Monday, March 12, 2012

FICTION: Lower Education [Full link to blog for email clients.]

Real Life has intervened and I am unable to write the Stellarcon Afteraction Report or continue Guide posts until at least Wednesday.

So, for my patient readers, here's a wee short story:

Lower Education
A short story by Tedd Roberts

No matter how hard I tried, it just wasn't possible to block out the sounds of a 13 year old boy arriving home from school.
"Mom, I think my teacher is an Alien."
I was working in my home office, but Will’s voice carried throughout the whole house.  It certainly got my attention.  I turned down the music in time to hear my wife’s quieter voice correct him:  "Of course William, there are lots of immigrants teaching in our schools."
"No Mom, an illegal alien."
"William, that’s not nice.  I’m sure there are no undocumented workers at your school."
"Mo-om, I mean a SPACE alien, like Mr. Spock, but not so nice."
I had decided it was time for a break.  I'd come home from the lab to write my research grant application and had gotten a lot of work done.  I had the rest of the weekend to do the proof-reading, so I could afford some rest.  As I entered the kitchen, I asked: "What makes you say that, Will-o?"
"Well, Mr. O’Connor handed out the test papers and told us he didn’t want to see us looking around at other kid’s papers.  Then he went to his cabinet and was looking in some sort of mirror and he just kinda ‘fuzzed’."
"Yeah, like on TV, whenever they want to imitate a hologram, it looks kind of 3-D, but then it fuzzes, and wiggles around, then snaps back into focus."
"And just what were you doing looking around?  Especially since he told you not to."
"He’s just gotten creepy, Dad.  I couldn’t help it."
"So did he see you?"
"Uh, yeah, I guess so."  Will reached into his pocket and pulled out a piece of blue paper that had been folded down to about an inch on a side.  "I’m s’posed to give this to you."
I unfolded the paper into a standard letter-sized page and read the notice that "William Reynolds received a failing grade on his Algebra test because of cheating" and would I please meet with the teacher and vice-principal on Monday.
Monday wasn’t a great day.  The grant application had to be submitted around noon, and there was a lot to be done.  Finally the Sponsored Research Office and I had the application completed and submitted.  It looked like I would make it to the 2 o’clock meeting after all.
Instead of being ushered into the Vice-Principal’s office, I was led to a small conference room filled with not just the VP and Algebra teacher, but all of William’s core curriculum teachers, and the district assistant superintendant.  "Professor Reynolds," began the VP, "we have a problem with William."
"William is insolent," said the English teacher.
"He’s a smart-ass," corrected the Science teacher, "he argues with all of the students and rejects the accepted State Science Curriculum."
"He has no appreciation of the process for completing his Social Studies projects."
"Mr. Reynolds," hissed the assistant superintendant in a low voice.
"That’s Doctor Reynolds, Sir."
"Yesssss, Dr. Reynolds.  You sssssee, this program is for highly academically gifted ssssstudentsssss.  Your ssssson is impeding their progresssss.  He must leave the program.  I will leave you" he pointed to the VP "to sssssettle thisssss." 
The teachers left me alone with the VP.  "Mr. Judge, Will's a good kid, he’s gotten good grades until now. "
"Dr. Reynolds, I sympathize.  I have enjoyed having both of your sons in this school, but I can’t ignore the teacher evaluations.  I have reports here - William refuses to show his work in Math, claims he can calculate the answer in his head.  He argued with the Science teacher and students over scientific evidence regarding pesticide and fluorocarbon bans.  He called the Social Studies teacher a Socialist, and refused to complete an English project making African Tribal Masks."
"Wait a minute – were his answers wrong?  Did he show proper literature citations?   The Social Studies teacher is a Socialist, she gave him a failing grade on his Constitution paper about the Second Amendment, and what do African Tribal Masks have to do with English grammar and American Literature?"
"That’s irrelevant Dr. Reynolds.  Modern education is about the process not the outcome.  I’m afraid they are right.  William must move to a different school. I suggest the military academy in Oak Ridge."
The day got worse when Bobby arrived home unexpectedly from college.
"Dad, I’m dropping out.  The neanderthals in the Biology department have decided we can’t even do dissections any more.  I can’t take it, I’d rather write Science Fiction."
But it was all overshadowed by the news that night.  It had happened.  There was intelligent life out there in the Universe.  Communications had been established.  The first envoy would be here in a couple months and they wanted to visit Earth’s scientific and educational institutions to see if we were eligible for membership in their galactic society. 
That would show the educators who was right.  We’d survive.  I got William transferred to a private school and Bob was enrolled in an on-line degree program.  Let him get an associates and work for a few years.
We were fortunate to be selected for one of the scientific tours for our new friends, The Hysst.  Our neural computing facility, the prosthetics group, and the tissue engineering institute had caught their attention, so we had to prepare a dog and pony show for the Ambassador and a group of scientific advisors.
It took about six months to set up the visit.  Toward the end, I corresponded pretty regularly with my counterpart Tar-Yrl, who had the Hysst equivalent of a doctorate in neural medicine.  Near as I could figure out, he was a professor at a major research institute and had been attached to the Embassy to help evaluate Earth’s scientific progress.  Once the tour had finished in our area I found that I had a few minutes alone with Tar.  I felt I knew him well enough to talk about subjects other than our immediate scientific interests, so I told him my concerns about educating our children to be productive citizens of galactic society.
I was shocked by his reaction.  I realize I shouldn’t have made assumptions about an alien race, but I was pretty sure that grimace was their equivalent of a smile and the head nod meant agreement.  Tar seemed to be approving of the teachers! 
I couldn’t believe it, so I asked:  "Tar how can you approve of a system that teaches kids to be mediocre and ignore real education?"  But as I listened to his answer it hit me where I'd heard that type of voice before.
"Friend Reynoldsssss.  You misssssunderssssstand.  We don’t want you to be educated."

1 comment:

  1. Were the answers to the problems with our educational system that easy. ;)


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