The Nossiter Net
The net that shall enmesh them all
Edited, Written, and Published by Josh Nossiter
The Morning Mendacity
Sunday, February 6th, 2005
The Nossiter Net is cast  to snare some of  the riper rascalities of the day.  Comments?  editor@nossiter.net
The Bush administration has presented its budget for the coming fiscal year.  Like all budgets, it’s as much a philosophical statement as it is about numbers.  Mr. Bush seeks  Pentagon funding of close to half a trillion dollars to pay for items like the Star Wars missile defense system, F22 fighters, Virginia class submarines,  and the Misty spy satellite.  Many analysts consider these cold war projects that are either dysfunctional, anachronistic, or irrelevant;  there is universal consensus that they are very, very expensive.  The budget includes deep cuts in student loan programs, public health programs, training for nurses, and subsidies for home heating for the poor.  Offsetting these, spending on a program to promote sexual abstinence in schools is being increased by 50%. 

Budgets are also glimpses into the future.  The intrepid budgeters of the Bush administration, influenced by Fritz Lang, Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, and H.G. Wells, have a vision of a future America that looks something like this…

John Ashcroft High School, a very large public school on San Francisco Bay, c. 2020.  It is early morning.  A few scattered students shuffle furtively up and down the hallways. Surveillance cameras monitor every inch of interior space, but the students have learned that by hugging the walls, they’re able to escape the camera lenses for brief moments.  Outdoor areas are under constant watch by satellites in geosynchronous orbit.  All of this makes for a remarkably peaceful campus.  Suddenly the peace is shattered by a tremendous foghorn;  a giant nuclear submarine has surfaced and is docking at the school pier.  Simultaneously, a squadron of enormous military helicopters lands in formation on the blacktop, the sound of their rotors and engines deafening.  With brakes screeching, a long line of tanks and troop transports pulls up at the school gates.

Hatches and doors open, and hundreds of students pour out at the double, those from the choppers ducking under the spinning rotors as they run.  With school budgets slashed and a huge surplus of unneeded military equipment, most aircraft, naval vessels, and  army vehicles have been converted to school buses in 2020.  The students, obedient to their training, proceed in serpentine fashion across the school grounds, staying low as they dodge imaginary bullets.  They move freely, unencumbered by the tote bags and backpacks lugged by their ancestors.  With books replaced by multimedia military-style simulators, and homework assigned and turned in over the internet, they have nothing to carry.

Fashions have changed little, and most are clad in tee shirts, blue jeans, and sneakers, though the traditional student uniform has been given a modern tweak.  Emblazoned on the chests of the girls, and the crotches and backsides of all the students, is the word “NO”, in large black letters on a white background.  Keeping their heads down and their hands in plain sight, the students file into the vast main building, through the large metal detector and past the drug and alcohol detection units.  The silence is impressive.

The incoming file of students begins to break up as groups go off to their separate classes.  The school Commandant, a hardened veteran of countless administrative wars, supervises impassively, an old-fashioned stopwatch in one hand.  His reliance on such an antiquated appliance is regarded as eccentric, especially when every move of everybody at the school is recorded in real-time by the surveillance system.  The Commandant has to be extra careful;  this being San Francisco, John Aschcroft High’s curriculum was seen as dangerously liberal by Educational Central Command in Omaha, Nebraska.  The Commandant takes special pains to avoid unwanted attention, and rigid adherence to the schedule is only one of his strategies.  His great coup, since imitated by his peers around the country, was to replace the highly unreliable human faculty with army surplus drones, retro-fitted as teacher-bots.  These remote-controlled armored drones, moving silently and speedily on rubber treads, proved to be ideal curriculum delivery systems.

The truth of this is evident in a freshman geology/biology class, just getting underway.  “Jill Parsons, student ID number 5437, when was the earth created?” asks the teacher-bot metallically.

“Sunday, October 23rd, 4004 BC – Archbishop James Ussher, 1650” replies the student, keeping her eyes down and her hands in plain sight.

“Correct.  Full marks of ten points for student ID number 5437.  Bonus marks of five points for source citation.  Sam Fuller, student ID 8219, describe the chief mechanism of human reproduction” the teacher-bot intones.

An unkempt youth stands up at the back of the class.  He nervously begins to put his hands in his pockets; when a red light on the nearest surveillance camera flashes, he gulps and quickly turns out his hands again.  The class shifts in their seats as the student continues to hesitate.  Tension mounts.  A muffled titter is instantly cut off when the teacher-bot’s telescopic eye swivels in that direction.  Finally, the student swallows hard and finds his voice.

“Uhh, The Stork?” he mumbles, desperately grasping at straws.

“Correct.  Full marks of ten points for student ID number 8219” the teacher-bot replies.

©Joshua C. Nossiter, 2005
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