Chapter 17: Alliance Education
28 July 1963, 0200 EDT
"Kalo. Orii-Val here. Lin-Erri is on leave at the moment, visiting with her family on Korendor. We now relay the remainder of this contact from Korendor. The speaker is Quen-Koll, Minister of Education."
"Alen, Bren al uni vita. Tonight I wish to speak to you on the educational system used on Korendor, and throughout the Alliance.
"Actually, no one planet has an independent school system. The majority of subjects, as Math, Science, Language, Social Science, etc., relating to life in the Alliance as a whole, are taught via educational TS [Note: telescreen], transmitted to all the planets from Alitra, the World of Knowledge, which is the center for all general knowledge in the Alliance.
"School-age children watch these programs provided on the 5th and 10th day of every week, for 5 units [Note: Korendian "weeks" are divided into ten days, called "redaars"; the days are divided into 20 units called "karheks" or "galuns"] each day (units 6 through 10). The rest of the week is given to the children to complete the examinations delivered at the end of each lecture.
"The exam must be done by the child personally, though any source of information may be used, up to and including questions directed at experts in the particular field, which the authorities usually answer immediately and with a feeling of perhaps unabashed pride that he should be selected as the one who knows. But we have deviated.
[The published text in Issue 21, July-August 1964, ended at "used". Mr. Green then added a comment re the length of the Korendian year and the length of the planet's day. That information was "planted" and was wrong. It states that the Korendian year is 1.904 Earth years. In fact, it is 4.535124 years. It also states that the Korendian day is 24 hours. The correct figure is 24h 19m 31.0632s.]
"The courses are transmitted on 15 channels, one for each level of education. All students are required to reach the 15th level before beginning their lives as productive citizens of the Alliance. How they reach this level is elective. If a student should wish to skip a course or even an entire level, that is his right. We have records of some exceedingly intelligent students that had advanced to 15th level work at the same age that their counterparts were in 4th and 5th level studies. This is encouraged whenever noted, and no attempt is made to slow them down, as is the case in your school system in most instances.
"On the contrary, the bright ones are given studies to enable them to exploit their talents to their fullest, although of course all students are kept at as challenging a level as can be handled by the student without exceeding his capabilities.
"After the 15th level is completed, if the student has not reached the age where he can begin the work of his choice, he is invited to enter into the Advanced courses, as far above the first 15 as college is above kindergarten. Many different courses are offered, all elective, and all pertaining directly to some occupation, the courses chosen by the student being the ones particular to his choice of work. If these courses are taken, there is no need for the Occupational Training Program enrollment, and he or she begins as soon as the individual reaches the correct age.
"The OTP, Occupational Training program, is recommended for everyone, as it in essence is a short study course provided by the corporation employing the individuals to acquaint him with his duties end the specific information relevant to his work.
"These courses are provided for the person while he is working at his job, and he is paid for all time spent in the courses, since they are considered an integral part of his work. If the job is of the type that cannot be undertaken until the entire course is completed, he nevertheless receives the standard credit of any employee doing his type of work, even though he may not actually be actively involved in the work.
"Another form of education, available to anyone, is by Psychtapes [Note: literal tapes, but not like ours]. The tapes, available at libraries in every city, contain every imaginable type of information. In use, the person induces a light state of self-hypnosis, and the tapes are imprinted directly on the memory cells in the brain by electromagnetic induction, bypassing the usual sensory stimuli. The average tape contains all the material that could be printed in a 300-page book, and can be put to memory in less than a minute, if desired.
"Returning to the 15-Level Series, at the end of the course, each student is given the Alliance Standard Examination. Each course of study is given a separate test, and a passing grade is above 85%. The kids themselves think it should be not less than 90%, the average being around 95%. They think that a mere 85% is too lax, and the Educational Board is seriously considering raising it to this level. If they agree to do so, it will be within the next cendrol. I personally favor the higher percentage, as do my own children.
"The tests each last for either one or two units, depending on the importance of the particular course, and the depth of knowledge necessary for the practical application of the subject.
"Each level has 5 courses, though many of these are merely step courses where more advanced information is given as the levels progress. Such courses as Physics, Electronics, and Mathematics are of this type.
"Others are one-shot types, such as Ethics, Psychology, etcetera. Under ordinary conditions, the student completes one level per cendrol, although the time for each is the student's right to determine. If be should wish to break off in the middle of a course, and advance to a higher one, be need only notify the Board.
"He will then receive transcripts of the course he chooses up to the time of entry into it, along with the tests given. This brings him up to date, and he proceeds from there.
"While there is no actual vacation given from the courses, since they run continuously, and repeat each cendrol, the fact that the courses are given only two days in ten gives the student abundant free time to pursue his own interests.
"There are no school buildings as such. The courses are delivered to the student via receivers provided by the planet for the purposes of education. The tests are delivered to the student by teleprint equipment within the receiver; the latter being a form of radioteletype-television console. [Note: more 60s terminology. How times have changed.]
"Since these courses are necessary to Alliance life, and since curiosity, awareness, and craving for knowledge are instilled into our youth, we have no dropouts or truants, and the children are visibly eager to receive each lecture.
"No courses are presented dryly. All have been carefully planned by the Educational Board to be as informative, interesting, and engrossing as possible. The courses never fail to hold undivided attention.
"I feel that this general outline's contents will provide you with much food for thought, especially those of you involved in education. Perhaps it will even stimulate your own system to improve itself, and to provide your youngsters with an education that will be considered an opportunity and a privilege rather than as a period of boredom and indifference.
"Your children need to be challenged, not stifled. Remember if you will that mathematics is the one and only exact science, and that to be dogmatic in teaching anything else is selling your kids short."
[Note: I queried him on this later, citing physics and other exact sciences. He replied that although the basic laws of science are exact, there are often multiple solutions to problems in those sciences. Their educational system focuses on ingenuity and creativity while stringently inculcating an awareness of the absolutes. However, he saw my point and stated that his wording might have been imprecise. And I accepted his explanation.]
"Encourage questions, experiments, original thinking, and observation. Above all, develop their latent abilities to their utmost. Any sign of the students' desire to challenge accepted theory should be encouraged by discussions, research, and if possible, communication with the authorities on the subject.
"Do not under any condition try to set a norm for any age group, overburdening the slow children and suppressing the bright ones. This is disastrous, wasteful, and if I may be so forceful, the worst form of high treason to the cause of humanity, since it destroys both the slow and the fast by catering to the average.
"All children must develop their abilities uninhibited by a lot of ridiculous theories, dogmas and general nonsense. No attempt to stifle free thought and creative cogitation should be sanctioned, since it is criminal to prevent a mind from developing naturally and at its own pace.
"DO present the student with problems that require research, experimentation, and genuinely original thinking. DO provide the student with every opportunity to learn. DO provide the student with the facilities conducive to study. Above all else, DO give the student work that will keep him from stagnating. A debilitated mind is a sign of an inefficient educational system, and is a stain on the record of a planet.
"In three words, IMPROVE, IMPROVE, IMPROVE! "Quen-Koll out. Va i luce. "
"Orii-Val again. I will be contacting you personally August the sixth day. I will have a surprise in store. Until then Orii-Val for RK-11. Out. Va i luce. "
© 2008 Robert P. Renaud -- all rights reserved