Back to Work... er, SCHOOL

Social outcasts like Da-da recall a youthful dread associated with going back to school. Riding a bus that smelled like socks. Food redolent of prison riots. Clothes your mom not only picked out, BUT MADE YOU WEAR IN PUBLIC. Imagine merging those sweatered feelings with the impending doom of a fresh Monday in Corporate America. What you’re imagining is Ayn Rand Elementary School in San Trabajo, a new charter school in Northern California.

On a recent tour for his own geek progeny, Bronco and Nagurski, Da-da was faced with what looked to be a Dickensian workhouse, stolidly gray amidst an empty brown field. There were no sounds of children. No screaming. No gleeful, maniacal laughter ending with a sudden thud. But SOMETHING was happening inside, as Da-da kept catching an odd clicking sound.

Da-da was there at the behest of Dr. Eldon Tyrel, principal and CEO of “The Rand," who invited him to see why his new facility was the best example of a new U.S. Dept. of Education-, and Corporate America-approved elementary school of the future. Inside, Da-da discovered both Dr. Tyrel, as well as the source of the clicking noise.

Under a queasy expanse of fluorescent lights were hundreds of tiny cubicles, the clicking due to the frenzied keystrokes of three hundred little sets of fingers typing furiously.

“The Rand prepares children for life in Corporate America,” said Dr. Tyrel, “AND allows us to harness the moneymaking potential of youthful energy and creativity now, while we can still use it -- thus bringing new outsourcing opportunities to corporations in dire need of young blood.”

Having missed Challenge Period, Da-da had arrived during First Period: Day Trading. Timed to begin as the market opened in New York, it was actually a part of every school period in-between bells. As it was, many of the tykes were already multi-millionaires (money held by the school in trust till the kids were old enough to hire an attorney). Second Period was devoted to coding, the little ones furiously trying to finish some bit of database management code for a large local company.

Third Period: Marketing and Public Relations. Some kids worked on their five-hundred-year roadmaps, while others immersed themselves in common-sense development groups, where they touched things that were hot (labeled HOT), and sharp (labeled SHARP). In the PR clinic, kids learned how to suck up to analysts and use jargon in place of creativity, as well as bill one hour for five-minutes of work, later declaring themselves geniuses.

The recess bell rang. The munchkins streamed from their cubes and snagged Starbucks coffee and cookies laced with antacid; coffee, candy and cigarettes were provided free of charge throughout the day in lieu of milk and water. The recess bell rang again three minutes later. Break over.

Next Period saw children in stock portfolio clinics. Fifth Period dealt with Maximizing Shareholder Value and "Creative Truthfulness." Sixth Period was normally concerned with learning to jerk around vendors, but today’s curriculum was postponed for more coding. (Evidently, there was a big push to get the demo done.) Seventh Period was a working lunch, with Indian food brought in while the children slaved.

Eighth Period: more coding while Dr. Tyrel delivered an inspirational speech over the PA system. “Besides being part of history, you lucky children will be the world's first trillionaires. Remember: money is the most important thing… that, and making your deadline.” Ninth Period involved Financing. Huge smiling pictures of “famous” venture capitalists were displayed, as well as tips on how to differentiate a banker from an attorney in a crowded room.

Finally, well past dark, the Last Period was upon us. Similar to the Challenge Period, the kids were required to sit for an hour in small, fast-moving automobile-like structures chained to each other as they flowed around a quarter-mile track, dragged around by a motorized horizontal pole. Each “car” was equipped with a radio and a fake cellphone. Signs along the “road” identified the scene as a scale model of the local 101 freeway corridor. Kids sat and looked miserable in the heat, just like their adult counterparts, and were shown how to eat dinner in their cars while furtively talking on cellphones, texting and working on Powerpoint Presentations. (The morning class taught how to sleep, eat, shower, shave, apply makeup and read email during morning commutes.)

In the end, Dr. Tyrel summed up the experience: “We need schools like this to bring kids’ high expectations down to earth. After all, the pyramids could never have been built in a democracy.”
The Rand's Busy Receptionist

1 comment:

A Man Called Da-da said...

Note: if someone knows who the artist is who did those great kid-crying paintings, please let me know so I can credit them; someone sent me that image but didn't source it.

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