Brave New World, where all the babies come from test tubes, and the oxygen to their embryonic brains is carefully calibrated so that the majority will be happy doing the service jobs that make life easy for the few Alphas, who get all the brains and all the perks. The children in their color-coded uniforms say in unison, "I'm so happy I'm a Beta," or Delta, or Epsilon.
We can 't do that here: that would be genetic engineering, which is immoral, unchristian. We have to create our Deltas and Epsilons the old-fashioned way, by depriving them of words and thought. Welcome to No-Child-Left-Behind World.
I had a long and troubling e-mail from Pat Robinson, who has taught high school English for 15 years in Meeker, Colorado. Her job has been eliminated because she taught English by having her students read novels. No longer. Meeker wants its little Deltas and Epsilons to be happy members of the service world--they'll fight our wars, flip our burgers, make our beds. We can't have them reading, reflecting, thinking about the world they're growing up in. No English class in Meeker can include literature: that distracts the students from test-taking.
Pat says: This "is the Enron of education where we hiding the lack of knowledge behind good test scores. It is the easy fix of diet pills that loosing weight is good whatever the cost to the body. It is a disaster. The private schools will flourish and people with money will see that their children get a good education. I started in inner city San Diego and moved to rural Colorado with one driving force: to teach students (who may not have the wealthy background) to be great people and real students. I have been successful and have many awards but now test scores are all that count."
She adds that there are eight topics English teachers will be allowed to cover, and that reading will be limited to one-or two-page extracts which students read over and over--thus guaranteeing that they will not be interested in the written word. But they don't need the written word to go to Iraq, or McDonalds: they can be happy Deltas with their minimum wage jobs and no health insurance.
You and I don't need soldiers, we need readers. What can we do as writers, as important leaders in the culture of this world, to save kids in Meeker and elsewhere.
by Sara Paretsky
P.S. If you want to read Pat's full letter, e-mail me and I will forward it to you.