Above the muffled mechanical sounds of the electronic educational information computer (reputedly housing a digitally programmed master file of 100-billion facts) the plastic, flesh-colored teacher-robot directed a programmed discussion on the elementary mechanics of the obsolete gasoline engine.
Miss Teacher Unit was a lovely mannequin with dark nylon hair and green fluorescent eyes. The boys were particularly infatuated with her silicone attributes and her intricate suspension system.
The classroom facility was an academic dream equipped with every device of modern educational technology. One entire wall quietly ticked or clicked with electronic instruments—dials, gages, computers, and brains. At the front of the room a large television screen was flanked on either side by screens for the slide and overhead projectors. An aromatic control meter kept the room delicately fragrant. Green tinted windows located above the “distraction level” eliminated any inclination to daydream with the outside environment. Electrodes attached to each desk were used to stimulate student attention, or they could be used for punitive measures. There was a humidity gage, temperature control unit, and, of course, a student truth-detector.
Miss Teacher Unit was about to discuss the function of the piston when a buzzer sounded in the room. Electronically she stimulated the attention of her pupils toward the wide cinema screen at the opposite end of the pale blue classroom. Automatically the long cylindrical tubes of light overhead grew dim, the window curtains closed, and the room faded into a distorted darkness, like interstellar space—only the mechanical eyes of Miss Teacher Unit flickered fluorescently, like stars, in the dark room.
The master projector control unit began to funnel a beam of light against the slightly concave screen. With a crisp celery-snap of sound, the amplifier began to hum, and softly the symphonic strains of the “Scholastic Anthem” became audible to the ears of the transfixed audience.
On the screen a pictorial sequence of industrial factories flashed by, merging into a sprawling panoramic view of suburban dwellings grouped in geometric patterns around a centrally focused structure, which zoomed-up imposingly into the middle of the screen—it was the multibillion dollar “Central Educational Complex.”
In unison the students began repeating the “Scholastic Pledge of Allegiance”— “I solemnly and scholastically pledge to learn everything the computer teaches me…” Slowly, the screen mellowed into a soft golden glow. The strong features of a beautiful masculine face began to appear, like a sunspot in the middle of the screen.
A solemn silence filled the room—breathing seemed to stop then start in subdued bursts of combustion. In a deep voice, soft as a fawn’s belly, serene as a meadow, the National Superintendent of Schools began to speak—stressing every syllable of sound poetically.
“Students,” the students stretched forward to the edge of their seats, breathlessly straining to hear every word, every sputter of static.
“The topic for today,” pausing dramatically,
“the topic is,” repeated for emphasis,
“the continued importance of education as a means to perpetuate the principles of Democracy. Only education…”
For fifteen minutes the audience was mute and motionless—a marvelous tribute to the science of student interest-conditioning.
Miss Teacher Unit redirected the attention of her pupils to the front of the classroom, adjusted the inflection level of her stereo auditory tract, and began the replay of her lesson plan. One boy, who maliciously launched a spitball at the aromatic control device, was momentarily stunned by a “disciplinary unit” of electricity—(Miss Teacher Unit’s electrically sensitive nerve centers were programmed at a low tolerance for classroom disorder). The boy was sent into the “disciplinary cubicle” to recite a hundred times the “Scholastic Pledge of Allegiance” into the replay machine.
At a preconditioned moment, Miss Teacher Unit’s brain clicked reminding her it was time to dismiss her class. Systematically she checked all her circuits, then pushed the rewind button concealed beneath her right temple—lesson plan #2008 silently began to rewind on the spindle mechanism inside her head. With a mechanical smile, Miss Teacher Unit reminded her students of their homework assignment—
“Report on the ‘educational reconditioning’ of your parents. Report, in detail, any ‘uneducational’ attitudes.”
The students returned her smile, almost mechanically, as they left the room.
William H. Wallace Jr.