EMDEE_3's story has a distinct 1984 flavor. Chilling!
No Child Left Behind
She was standing before the row of sinks when I walked into the bathroom. My heart nearly stopped and a shocked gasp escaped my lips. Her hair and skin were not the dull gray color of the Public Face, but beige and brown. She was natural-faced! Her rubbery mask had been stuffed under her arm and she was casually washing her hands. She looked up at me when I walked into the room. The expression on her face did not match my look of horrified embarrassment. To walk in on someone who is not wearing their Public Face is like walking in on someone who is in the nude! But she was calm and her eyes sparkled with a mischievous smile. I quickly ran into the nearest stall to wait for her to cover herself.
“What’s your name?” she called out to me from behind the ceramic door.
My name? What a peculiar thing to ask. As if my name was of any importance here at school. I did not answer her. I couldn’t if I wanted to. My Public Face was still on, forbidding me to speak.
“Oh, I forgot, you’re still wearing that ghastly thing. Afraid of expulsion, are you? Well I’m not.” I wished she would just shut up! What if someone else walked in here and saw her speaking to me? I could be demoted to Level 5.
I fumbled around in my school uniform. We were only given three minutes for our personal restroom break, and our box-shaped body suits made this time limit nearly impossible. At least I’d had eleven years of practice. When my business was complete, I fixed the Student Body and smoothed the navy frock that was draped over it. I hoped she’d at least had the decency to cover her face by the time I opened the stall door.
Peering out from a crack, I saw the rubbery gray face and dull plastic hair of classroom uniformity. The girl now looked like all the other girls at school, but something radiated out of her, something I couldn’t identify. The Public Face turned to look at me, the eyes, veiled by a black mesh, spoke something her mouth could no longer say. “Is this better?” I could only blink and watch her walk slowly towards the hallway.
A few moments later I returned to my Level 6 Applied Mathematics class, and was in my seat exactly 180 seconds after I had left. They were about to begin the next question, and the one I had missed would be considered homework. My Electronic Answer Tablet flashed the next question while the monotone voice read to the class:
“The factory where you work assembles 15 lawnmowers every 25 minutes. At this rate, how long would it take to build 200 lawnmowers?”
Underneath the problem were the instructions for finding the answer and four different numerical choices. I tapped on the calculator attached to my Tablet and pressed my finger to the correct answer. Then I waited rest of the three minutes.
My grandmother used to tell me fantastical stories about when she went to school, how she was taught by a teacher and there were different teachers in every school who taught different subjects. She said the students wrote down their answers with pencils and paper instead of our Tablet, and the assignments were not read aloud to the classes as a group, but usually worked on individually. Can you imagine? What if one teacher taught better than another teacher? What if a student had better handwriting than another student or read faster or got a wrong answer?
She said back then they didn’t have uniforms like our Student Bodies, or Public Faces. Kids were allowed to wear clothing over their own bodies and walk around natural-faced. I can only see this causing a terrible distraction. Students would stare at the pretty faces and make fun of the ugly ones, or poke at the fatter bodies while admiring the thinner ones. I don’t understand how there could have been equality in the classroom if there wasn’t equality in the way students looked or dressed.
Back then, there was nothing to keep people from speaking during school and students were even forced to raise their hands to answer questions that a teacher would ask. How would the student even know the exact answer without having memorized it, and what if, God forbid, the answer contained an opinion? Everyone knows opinions are never to be spoken out loud. Some idiot might go around spreading falsities to a naive population!
Grandmother’s school sounds more like a zoo, and I think her memories may be getting slightly confuses—the way older people’s get sometimes. There’s no possible way for students to learn efficiently and equally if they are allowed to express individuality. Our Tablets have been telling us that for years.
The next math question flashed onto the screen at my desk and a tinny voice filled the silent room.
"As a hair dresser, you must schedule your own appointments, so you need to know how long one haircut takes. If you have done 5 haircuts between 1:45 pm and 4:15 pm, with one ten minute break, how long did each haircut take?”
I calculated and I touched the answer “28 minutes.” Then I waited for the other students to be done.
My thoughts drifted to the girl from the bathroom. What I once felt as horrified embarrassment melted into wonder. The image of her face was burned into my memory: that long, waving auburn hair glinting in the florescent lights, her fair freckled face, those pink lips turned up into a sly smile, and that look of satisfied rebellion gleaming in her hazel eyes. What gave her the courage to be so beautifully bold?
A bell rang, signaling the end of Applied Mathematics. This classroom was now Reading for Information Level 6. I kept my seat while some students filtered in and out. One caught my attention. It was the girl from the bathroom; I could sense it.
“The purpose of the No Child Left Behind Act,” the passage read, “is to ensure that all students have an equal opportunity to pursue higher levels of education by meeting proficiency standards set by the National Academic Association. This act implies that in order to ensure equal achievement from each student, the students must be equal in all aspects of the classroom…”
I had been given this one before and knew the answers.
Individuality inhibits higher learning because ____ .
b) Uniformity in the classroom is the best way to ensure that each student will meet the proficiency standards needed to pursue higher learning.
Specialized subjects inhibit higher learning because ____ .
b) Non-specialized subjects in the classroom are the same subjects tested in the assessment examines that determine whether or not the student has met the proficiency standards needed to pursue higher learning. To study specialized subjects would be a waste of the time allotted.
Should there be a unique curriculum designed for students who learn differently from their peers?
d) No. A unique curriculum would only inhibit the student, because the assessment exam will be given in the same format as the classroom curriculum. It would be beneficial to the student if he/she grew to learn in the same way as his/her peers.
During the entire class, I could sense the presence of the girl behind me. She attracted all my attention off my studies, a phenomenon that had never happened to me before. In the breaks between passages I would glance over my shoulder at her, watching the glow of her Tablet as it made a bluish tint on her Public Face.
When the bell rang signaling the end of school, she walked past me, dropping something on my desk as she walked by. I picked it up. My eyes were wide and curious as I fingered a small piece of folded paper. I opened one crease and then the other. A note was written on it. The letters were uneven and hard to read. She had written it in her own handwriting! I’d never seen anyone pen their own note before. I read the sentence slowly and cautiously, like it was some sort of rare treasure.
“All in all you’re just another brick in the wall.”
My mind could not comprehend its meaning, but my heart knew these words were of momentous importance. Suddenly, I realized what had been different about her. She looked like everyone else, and yet I saw a glow of something. That glow was the blaze of revolution.
I quickly crumpled the note in my palm and scurried out the door.
Based on "Another Brick in the Wall, part 2," by Pink Floyd
Positively Orwellian, right?
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Topics: musical fiction contest