One that the fascinating things about reading larger science-fiction story is discovering that your authors predicted frequently years or even decades in development things that came to be: Jules Verne’s lunar travel vehicles, Czech writer Karel Capek’s robots, Arthur C. Clarke’s interaction satellites.

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Sometimes, of course, science fiction gets it wrong: the standard 1956 film “Forbidden Planet” has actually a voice-over in ~ the beginning predicting people would no land top top the moon till the end of the 21st Century and Stanley Kubrick’s mind-boggling “2001: A space Odyssey” assumed us would have cities top top the moon in its eponymous year.

But in this pandemic year the is interesting to keep in mind the eerie resonance of Isaac Asimov’s 1953 quick story “The funny They Had,” composed at a time when computer systems with far less memory and speed than those these days took up vast rooms and the id of a computer in every home would have attracted laughs.

Set in the year 2155, the brief tale opens up with 2 pre-adolescent children, Margie and also Tommy, analyzing a book that Tommy has uncovered — that pages “yellow and crinkly” in his attic. The youngsters marvel in ~ the truth that there to be a time as soon as “all story were published on paper.”

In their century, there are “teaching machines” that deserve to hold countless books and display castle on a screen. If this summary sounds prescient that a Kindle, it have to be noted that micro-circuitry was unknown and undreamed of in 1953 and the story’s “teaching machine” — “large and black and ugly with a large screen” — supposedly takes up a great bit that space.

Children such together Margie sit prior to the computer screen for hours at a time being lectured to by a robotic voice and submitting questions and tests “in a punch password they do her find out when she was six years old.” Shades the Fortran — because that anyone today old sufficient to remember laboring over those punch cards!

But, on this particular day, a guy with the Orwellian-sounding title of “County Inspector” has been called in by Margie’s mother since the teaching device has apparently been operating at an overly-accelerated pace that has left Margie much behind in the area of geography and the little girl currently hates both the subject and the to teach machine.

While it would certainly be nice to think that in 2155 location will again be component of the curriculum in our colleges — it went the method of the dodo some time back along v the teaching of grammar and cursive creating — it is additionally obvious that the two kids in “The funny They Had” learn in isolation from other kids.

If this sounds comparable to what young civilization from kindergarten through college skilled this spring — and will continue to suffer through the summer and also apparently the fall as well — Asimov’s prescience i do not care eerily clear. Although every “teaching machine” is programmed come fit the individual demands of students, it likewise can it is in relentless and also cold.

Margie is disappointed that the “County Inspector” has been able to fix and adjust her machine — she had actually been hoping the it would be taken away altogether for repairs. Lucky Tommy had actually once been without his for a month.

Woven transparent the straightforward action the the story room the children’s memories of things they have actually been said by their grandparents — that heard the stories from your grandparents —about exactly how “centuries ago” school was conducted: “All the children from the whole community came, laughing and shouting in the schoolyard, sitting with each other in the schoolroom, going house together in ~ the end of the day. They learned the exact same things so they could aid one another on the homework and also talk around it.”

And the story ends when the mechanical teacher starts a great in fractions, yet the distracted Margie is thinking about kids of previous times “and the funny they had.”

Anyone through an acquaintance or family member who is a teacher has undoubtedly heard horror stories around the educational state in i beg your pardon this nation now finds itself. For one thing, the is typical to listen a teacher who has actually been law lessons online complain that a large percentage that his or she students — almost everywhere from a third to a half and in some situations far higher — have actually simply no participated in ~ all.

And this is true in both affluent and non-affluent districts alike. (There is likewise the question of whether work-related being submitted online was actually done through the student or someone rather — yet that is a whole various issue.) and also while Zoom has enabled the creation of at least a semblance of an really classroom, the give-and-take and also the an individual relationships among students and also between students and teachers is glaringly absent.

In “The funny They had,” both Tommy and Margie have actually parents who room making sure their youngsters are sit at their machines, whatever their kids’ very own preferences. Yet from anecdotal proof gathered from across the country, part parents are either can not or unwilling to take on that responsibility — and also the results will it is in dire: Potentially numerous students will certainly be supported to the next educational level without having actually the requisite expertise or skills. 

Indeed, if most educational levels from elementary institution through college will again be taught virtual in the comes fall, the result will be that, through 2021, substantial numbers of students will be practically a complete year behind in their knowledge and skills. 

The practice of “keeping a student back” ended years ago, despite in Asimov’s story, the “teaching machine” deserve to simply be changed to a student’s level and proceed from the point: prefer it or not, Margie will ultimately acquire the knowledge the maker demands the her.

But think that the challenge facing teachers once the pandemic subsides and also instruction is again following in classrooms and lecture halls: having actually to deal with some student who have regularly to be completing compelled assignments and participating as fully as feasible in digital instruction, and also others who room woefully behind in the forced knowledge and also skills.

And, for over a year, none have been subjected to the technique required come sit in a classroom, take notes, and also participate. Teachers of every educational level are confronted today with problems undreamed of a generation ago. Currently they must uncover ways to resolve this potentially damaging situation.

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It is sobering and of food ungrammatical to say for this reason — yet they ain’t going to have actually fun.