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November 14, 2010

'Per & Fect School'

Special thanks to Andy Mitchell for his illustration. To see more of his work, visit

November 14, 2010|By Arin Shane

"By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes." —Macbeth

Dear readers, the following science fiction story is a work of imagination taking place hundreds of years in the future.

February 2510

I creep out of bed and wash my face. I don't have any clean clothes, so I borrow some from my brother. I remember that I had an assignment on my homework chip. I pull it out of my computer, shove it in my backpack, and plop down the steps to the kitchen. I wash down my breakfast of powdered scrambled eggs with orange juice and let out a loud burp.

"Robert John O'Hansen, mind your manners!" screams my mom from upstairs.

"OK. Can we leave already? I'm going to be late for another 'fun' day of school," I say.

Coming down the steps, my mother says, "Yes, yes, let's go." And with that, we leave the house.

I arrive at school at 7:59:59. As I enter the school, the bell screams for us to go inside. Today we have first-period English. I take a seat in class. Everyone is bored. At 8:09:59, the classroom doors and windows lock. The TeachingBot stationed at the front of the room awakens with a loud beep-boop-bop. Its lights flash and blink as its artificial eyes open to the site of 25 motionless kids.

"Good morning, class," it says in a static voice. "Please insert your homework chips into the slots on your desks." As if we didn't know. The class does so and the robot continues:

"Today, we'll be learning about writer William Shakespeare," it says, raising and lowering its pitch on every word. "Please strap on your LearnaBands."

We do so and close our eyes. Awakening around 10 minutes later, we know everything about the plays "Macbeth" and "Romeo and Juliet."

The classroom doors unlock and the TeachingBot turns off with a drooping noise. We take off our LearnaBands and exit the room. Time for lunch. On Mondays, it's powdered pizza, powdered hotdogs, and powdered cupcakes. I choose pizza and cupcakes.

The bells scream, signaling the end of the school day. I decide to walk home, skipping the usual electric shuttle.

Three blocks from school, I see an old, old man at the corner of the street. I have to walk by him to get home. I try not to look at him.

He shouts, "You!" He holds a book out, his hands shaking.

Not knowing what else to do, I take the book and walk quickly away. I'd seen books before in old movies. They were a waste of trees.

The book is as crazy-looking as the old man. It asks questions like, "Is Macbeth a good man or an evil man? What are your reasons?" What kind of a weird question is that? The answer to that is nowhere in the play. It sounds like it might have to do with "ideas." I have heard about them, but way back at the beginning of the millennium, it was decided that ideas were old-fashioned.

Reading is about knowing facts, not about these "idea" things.

I drop the worthless book into the gutter. A hundred steps later, I stop, turn around, and pick up the book. I think deeply in my mind. There has to be more to learning than knowing the facts.

Special thanks to Andrew Mitchell for his illustration. To see more of his work, visit

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