On what grounds…?: KATSUIE SHIBATA
November 12, 2015
Education in 2036, imagined by sci-fi author Katsuie Shibata, is introduced in seven segments, four from a short story written exclusively for this site and three from an interview with him. This is the first part of the story. In an era when people have freedom to study wherever and whatever they like from a wide variety of subjects, a high school student chooses an outdated course on Japanese kanji characters and calligraphy. The reason behind the appeal is….
Classes for someone
School. It reeks of staleness. Depression. Dubiousness. It just reeks in general.
Maybe it's because of all the comics I was into as a kid. I hated the way people all sat in the same place, all nodding in unison to the lecture, always given by the same person. We all copied the words verbatim and took them as our own. It's no different from how a baby bird imitates its mother. But birds, from their skeletons to their feathers, are made to fly. When necessary, they have to fly, whether they like it or not.
People are the same. Ultimately, learning something from someone is like polite deference toward society. When necessary, we have to study, whether we like it or not. Which sort of does away with the need for school itself, doesn’t it?
I sat on the bench and let the cable from my headset droop into the fountain behind me. A pop-up hologram scattered throughout the globe-shaped fountain, part of it projecting through the device and appearing before me. Ignoring the clutter of information displayed, I fixed my gaze at the tab I had labeled Studies.
Some of my classmates were likely still crammed into an all-white room, butting heads debating in class. Count me out. It might be important, but it doesn’t motivate me. It's not as if anyone would notice my disappearing from the classroom itself, as education sessions position to teach others. He has now traded in his indigo robes and spends his time learning culinary skills from the chef of a three-star restaurant.
I can be a studious high school girl and still decide that today, or any day, I'll study whatever piques my interest. Teachers who keep harping on formal schooling might not like it, but I think that's an outmoded way of thinking. I have successfully finished the standard curriculum, and my educational planner has recommended new assignments that might suit my interests.
As necessary, I'll go about my studies in my own way.
Classes only for me
I browsed through the diverse list of elective subjects on the pop-up hologram.
The channels for the electives I had selected so far were Dance, Painting, App Development, Modern American Music History, Tiling, and various others. I had chosen subjects recognized by my school, while considering both my personal interest and the subject’s practical value.
But the number of channels that I could apply for in my yearlong study plan was fixed. This time around, the German Pastry Making channel that I had been registered for had come to an end, so I could sign up for a new class in that bracket.
I had nothing against the certification courses popular with so many other students, but I preferred to choose more easygoing and simple courses. I liked music, but it tended to overlap with other classes. I wanted to choose more technology-related classes, but if I picked too many, I wouldn't be able to keep up with the assignments. Go for another pastry making class? No, the results last time were terrible.
I added "low reference value" to the search parameters. Although I browsed the popular classes and well-known instructors, nothing new popped up. Then I did the opposite and looked at the totally unpopular classes—the unconventional ones that had not yet been discovered by everyone else.
That was when I spied the archaic-looking Kanji and Calligraphy Course. I liked Japanese language classes, so it had some basic appeal, but learning by writing kanji characters...?
I was fully prepared to move on when I noticed his name. In the list of registered students, I saw a familiar string of letters. A friend—well, more like an acquaintance, really. He was a Russian exchange student. We attended different schools, but I had run into him several times in my elective courses. So he was registered for this class, huh?
It was such a minor reason, but it roped me in.