The Fun they Had
Margie even wrote about it that night in her diary. On
the page headed 17 May 2157, she wrote, ‘Today Tommy
found a real book !’
It was a very old book. Margie’s grandfather once
said that when he was a little boy his grandfather told
him that there was a time when all stories were printed
They turned the pages, which were yellow and crinkly,
and it was awfully funny to read words that stood still
instead of moving the way they were supposed to - on a
screen, you know. And then when they turned back to the
page before, it had the same words on it that it had when
they read it the first time.
“Gee,” said Tommy, “what a waste! When you’re
through with the book, you just throw it away, I guess.
Our television screen must have had a million books on
it and it’s good for plenty more. I wouldn’t throw it away.”
“Same with mine,” said Margie. She was eleven and
hadn’t seen as many telebooks as Tommy had. He was
She said, “Where did you find it ?”
“In my house.” He pointed without looking because he
was busy reading. “In the attic.”
“What’s it about ?”
Margie was scornful. “School ? What’s there to write
about school ? I hate school.”
Margie always hated school, but now she hated it
more than ever. The mechanical teacher had been giving
her test after test in geography and she had been doing
worse and worse until her mother had shaken her head
sorrowfully and sent for the County Inspector.
He was a round little man with a red face and a
whole box of tools with dials and wires. He smiled at
Margie and gave her an apple, then took the teacher apart.
Margie had hoped he wouldn’t know how to put it together
again, but he knew how all right, and, after an hour orso, there it was again, large and black and ugly, with
a big screen on which all the lessons were shown and
the questions were asked. That wasn’t so bad. The
part Margie hated most was the slot where she had
to put homework and test papers. She always had to
write them out in a punch code they made her learn
when she was six years old, and the mechanical
teacher calculated the marks in no time.
The Inspector had smiled after he was finished
and patted Margie’s head. He said to her mother, “It’s
not the little girl’s fault, Mrs Jones. I think the
geography sector was geared a little too quick. Those
things happen sometimes. I’ve slowed it up to an
average ten-year level. Actually, the overall pattern of
her progress is quite satisfactory.” And he patted
Margie’s head again.
Margie was disappointed. She had been hoping
they would take the teacher away altogether. They had
once taken Tommy’s teacher away for nearly a month
because the history sector had blanked out completely.
So she said to Tommy, “Why would anyone write
about school ?”
Tommy looked at her with very superior eyes.
“Because it’s not our kind of school, stupid. This is
the old kind of school that they had hundreds and
hundreds of years ago.” He added loftily, pronouncing
the word carefully, “Centuries ago.”
Margie was hurt. “Well, I don’t know what kind
of school they had all that time ago.” She read the
book over his shoulder for a while, then said, “Anyway,
they had a teacher.”
“Sure they had a teacher, but it wasn’t a regular
teacher. It was a man.”
“A man? How could a man be a teacher ?”
“Well, he just told the boys and girls things and
gave them homework and asked them questions.”
“A man isn’t smart enough.”
“Sure he is. My father knows as much as my
teacher.”“He knows almost as much, I betcha.”
Margie wasn’t prepared to dispute that. She said,
“I wouldn’t want a strange man in my house to teach
Tommy screamed with laughter. “You don’t know
much, Margie. The teachers didn’t live in the house.
They had a special building and all the kids went
“And all the kids learned the same things ?”
“Sure, if they were the same age.”
“But my mother says a teacher has to be adjusted
to fit the mind of each boy and girl it teaches and
that each kid has to be taught differently.”
“Just the same they didn’t do it that way then. If
you don’t like it, you don’t have to read the book.”
“I didn’t say I didn’t like it”, Margie said quickly.
She wanted to read about those funny schools.
They weren’t even half finished when Margie’s
mother called, “Margie ! School !”
Margie looked up. “Not yet, Mamma.”
“Now!” said Mrs Jones. “And it’s probably time
for Tommy, too.”
Margie said to Tommy, “Can I read the book some
more with you after school ?”
“May be.” he said nonchalantly. He walked away
whistling, the dusty old book tucked beneath his arm.
Margie went into the schoolroom. It was right next
to her bedroom, and the mechanical teacher was on
and waiting for her. It was always on at the same
time every day except Saturday and Sunday, because
her mother said little girls learned better if they learned
at regular hours.
The screen was lit up, and it said: “Today’s
arithmetic lesson is on the addition of proper fractions.
Please insert yesterday’s homework in the proper slot.”
Margie did so with a sigh. She was thinking about
the old schools they had when her grandfather’s
grandfather was a little boy. All the kids from the
whole neighbourhood came, laughing and shouting inthe schoolyard, sitting together in the schoolroom, going
home together at the end of the day. They learned the
same things, so they could help one another with the
homework and talk about it.
And the teachers were people ...
The mechanical teacher was flashing on the screen
: When we add fractions 1/2 and 1/4 ...”
Margie was thinking about how the kids must have
loved it in the old days. She was thinking about the
fun they had.