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On the day of 17 May 2157, Tommy found a real book. He showed it to Margie. Margie was eleven years old. She had never seen a real book before. She had once heard from her grandfather about printed books. It was a very old book. Its pages have turned yellow and crinkly. They turned its pages and read them. Tommy found it just a waste. They had no printed books. Their books flashed on the television screen. Tommy who was of thirteen had read more books on the television screen than Margie.
Tommy told Margie that it was a book about school. Margie always hated school. Her school was situated in a room in her home. It was in the room next to her bedroom. Her Mechanical teacher flashed on her television screen at a fixed time daily except on Saturday and Sunday. She had to attend alone. This mechanical teacher asked her questions, gave her homework and checked it. It also checked the assignment test papers and awarded them.
Margie’s mechanical teacher had been giving her test after test. Margie’s performance had been going from worse to worst. Her mother called for the County Inspector. He set the speed of the mechanical teacher right up to the level of an average ten-year child. Tommy told Margie that hundreds and hundreds of years ago there was an old kind of school. Those schools were situated in a special building. Men teachers taught in them. All the kids in the area went there and learned the same thing. Margie thought that it would be great fun to study in those schools. She wanted to read about those funny schools.
Just then Margie’s mother called Margie to attend her school. Margie was reluctant but she had to go inside her schoolroom nonchalantly. It was right next to her bedroom. Her mechanical teacher was on and waiting for her. It asked Margie to put her homework in the proper slot. Margie did so with a sigh. the mechanical teacher was teaching her the mathematics topic of fractions but she was thinking about the schools of the old days and the fun they had.
On May 17, 2157, Tommy, a young boy of thirteen happens to find a book in the attic of his house, which he shows to Margie, a girl of eleven. The book is centuries old and its pages are yellow and crinkly. Both Tommy and Margie are amazed to see that the words in the book are fixed on the pages and do not move as they do on a screen they are accustomed to. Actually, they have been born and brought up in an era of advanced computers and T.V. with a mechanical teacher giving lessons at home.
Margie recalls that once her grandfather had told her about how stories were printed on pages in the times of his grandfather.
Tommy considers books a waste because, unlike computers, they cannot have new words after one has finished reading them. Margie is disappointed when Tommy tells her that the book is about a school because she dislikes schools. Her concept of a school is a T.V. screen with machines giving lessons in various subjects. The T.V. has a special slot where the students have to submit their homework which is checked and marked by the machine in no time. Margie’s dislike for a school has been intensified these days because the mechanical teacher has not been functioning properly. Margie’s mother calls the County Inspector to examine the cause behind the error. The Inspector disbands the mechanical teacher and finds that Margie was not at fault for her poor performance. Actually, the geography sector had been fixed at a speed that was too fast for the little girl. The Inspector is able to set the speed to Margie’s level but she is unhappy to have the teacher put in order. She had hoped that it would be taken away for some time and she would be relieved of the trouble of taking so many tests.
Tommy informs Margie that the book is not about their kind of school which has a T.V. with mechanical teachers. It is, on the other hand, about the old kind of schools which used to work hundreds of years ago. He tells her that the old schools were special buildings where lessons were taught by men and not by machines. The students of one level were taught together by the same teacher in the same room.
Tommy and Margie discuss how earlier many students adjusted their level with the same teacher, unlike their own schools where every teacher is attuned to the requirement of the individual student. They haven’t even read half the book when Margie’s mother reminds her that it is time for school. Margie’s schoolroom is right next to her bedroom. She has to study at regular hours because her mother considers it right to study at a fixed time every day. As the mechanical teacher is teaching the addition of proper fractions, Margie is lost in her thoughts about the working of schools in old times. She believes that the kids must have enjoyed going together to school. They must have had fun going to the same school, studying the same things and being able to help one another.
Tommy finds a ‘real book’ which has been printed on paper in the attic of his house. He shows the book to Margie. Together, they both take a look at it. The book is really old and the pages are yellow and crinkly. In the year 2157, this kind of books doesn’t exist anymore. In this time, words are moving on a television screen. This television contains over a million books. That is the reason, Tommy thinks that they are much better. Margie inquires what’s it about. Tommy says that it is about school. Margie hates school and cannot understand why someone would write about it. She is having problems with learning geography from her ‘mechanical teacher’. It is black, large and has a screen on it. It teaches the students, gives them exercises and asks them questions, all in a special room in their own house. It can also calculate the marks in no time. Margie hates the slot where she has to insert her homework or test papers. Once the geography sector of her mechanical teacher has geared too quick so that her marks are getting worse and worse.
The County Inspector slows it after one hour. He is really nice to Margie. She hopes that her mechanical teacher would be away for a long time. Tommy says that the book which he has found, is not about their type of school, it is about school centuries ago. They find out that students back then had a man as a teacher who taught the girls and boys, give them homework and asked them the question. They had a special building. And they learned the same thing if they were of the same age.
At first, Margie does not understand how a person could be a teacher and how the students were taught the same thing because her mother says that education must fit each child’s mind, but these schools are funny and she wants to read more about it. Then it is time for Margie and Tommy for their school. Margie goes to the schoolroom in her house, where the mechanical teacher stands. It is already on because the lessons are always at regular hours. She was thinking about the old school system and how much fun the children must have, learning and spending time together.