Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Reading, 'Riting & Reloading

It was at the beginning of the second term that Dr Greene - who had not been principal of East Roger Primary School for long, and was therefore prone to insecurity - began to query his student's collective commitment to fruit and vegetables. Now, Dr Greene was no pen-pushing administrator, sitting around in his office all day dreaming up problems to solve. Dr Greene was that rare thing, a pro-active principal, and the problems he dreamed up to solve were based on empirical evidence collected during his daily circuit of the playground.

Every day he became more appalled by what he saw. Children eating junk food or, if they had been provided with a nutritious lunch, eating the less-nutritious parts of it and throwing the rest away. At the end of each lunch break the bins were filled with untouched apples and bananas, garnished with discarded carrot sticks and celery stalks.

Desperate to act, Dr Greene sought corroberative evidence. He began watching the children filing in of a morning, noting any weight gain, complexion problems, or putative heart conditions he observed. By the end of the term it was obvious to Dr Greene that the East Roger student body was in poor shape, and only a few more weeks of chip-and-chocolate lunches away from disaster.

When term three began, Dr Greene went into action. Teachers were instructed to convey the health benefits of fruit and vegetables to their charges at least twice a day. Homilies ("An apple a day...") were to be strategically employed. Teachers were also to set a good example. Any teacher found on school grounds without at least one apple, orange or carrot in their possession would be subject to a severe reprimand. Sadly, after two weeks this subtle indoctrination programme had achieved nothing. If anything, the students were even less amenable to eating well than they had been. It was time for plan B, which Dr Greene hastily drew up one evening in bed with the assistance of Ms Findley, the Grade Six teacher.

A parent-teacher information night was held, stressing the importance of tackling the problem not merely for the children's sake, but also for the sake of Western civilisation. "Because the children are our future," said Dr Greene, bringing the assembled mums and dads to their feet. A multimedia "edutainment" kit was put together featuring the interactive adventures of two anthropomorphic rabbits named Jasper and Casper. Jasper was a good rabbit who ate all the fruit and vegetables he could lay his paws on, and thus thrived and was happy. Casper, however, disdained nature's candy, and as a result suffered from scurvy and rickets and lime disease, and was regularly forced to submit to the ministrations of the sadistic Nurse Fox.

The programme was an immediate success. Within a fortnight there were significantly less wrappers blowing around the yard, and what fruit ended up in the bin had at least been nibbled at. In the playground one lunchtime, Dr Greene even heard a child tell his friends that he planned not only to eat his own fruit, but whatever they didn't want of theirs as well. "I want to be like Jasper!" the boy announced to general acclaim. Back in his office, Dr Greene allowed himself a self-congratulatory smile, and, with a glass of brandy warming his throat, toasted the success of his programme.

Yet Dr Greene's celebration was premature. He had not factored in the inherent fickleness of children. As a demographic (to descend for a moment into the odious lexicon of the marketeer), they are quick to adopt a new trend, but equally quick to discard it in favour of something new. (The phrase "capitalism's bitches" might spring to mind, but only if you are a certain kind of person.) In this case, the something new was yo-yos. Chocolate-coated yo-yos, in fact, that you were obliged to lick clean before playing with. It was the ultimate combination of obnoxious futility and bad nutrition, and in their haste to "collect the set" (which was actually impossible, due to the ingenious distribution practices of the yo-yo company) the children forgot all about Jasper and Casper, and their wholesome, nutritious message.

When he realised this, Dr Greene was, in quick succession, confused, outraged, and nauseous. Later he settled into a steady state of bafflement. How could he, a mere educator, compete with the marketing arm of Cho-Yo Pty Ltd? Dr Greene took his role as principal seriously. He saw himself as a holistic educator, preparing not only minds but bodies - people! persons! - for the world beyond school. Yet aside from the standardised curriculum, what tools did he possess for pursuing this brief? What could he bring to the table (apart from fruits and vegetables) to improve the mental and physical health of his students? Traditional education methods had failed - what else was there?

Clearly a radical solution was required. Dr Greene took out subscriptions to a number of obscure educational and scientific journals, and spent the mid-year holidays studying the latest papers on mass coercion, mind control, and the ethics of same. He drew pie charts and Venn diagrams, took extensive notes, and even, on one occasion, made a phone call to a certain Syrian police chief to check a few details. It turned out that getting people to do what you wanted them to do was fairly easy, and could be done using hundreds of different techniques, some requiring little more than a well-placed phrase, others a tarpaulin and some quite specialised equipment. Dr Greene assimilated all he read, and by holiday's end had formulated a programme which he allowed himself to immodestly christen "the Greene Method". He wrote a memo to be copied and given out to all staff, made a phone call, then went to his bedroom, where Ms Findley was reclining on the bed, reading Mr Norris Changes Trains.

"You know, Ms Findley, I think I've got it." He climbed in beside her, and rested his chin on her breast. "Tomorrow, we are going to usher in a new era of health and vitality for the students of East Roger Primary School. Whether they like it or not."

"Oh, Dr Greene," said Ms Findley, putting aside her book. "Make love to me like an ox!" (Ms Findley had until recently lived as a virginal spinster, and her style of erotic discourse was still developing.)

And as Dr Greene and Ms Findley grappled and grasped, in another part of town a man was loading delicate cargo into a truck. The cargo was stowed in special boxes with moulded padding inside to ensure the items arrived in working order. The man was just heaving the last box onto the truck when he remembered that he hadn't asked the client for identification. Or if he had a license. And wasn't there supposed to be some kind of cooling off period with this sort of thing? The man shrugged. It was his first day, and the guy on the phone had sounded all right, even a bit posh. The man checked the invoice. East Roger Primary School? Times have changed, thought the man with a chuckle. Times have changed. Then he went home to bed.

*

Stuart Tewlock was being difficult.

"No!" he said. "No! No! No!" He paused for a moment. "No!" he reiterated. "No! No! No!"

Dr Greene watched from the corridor as Mrs Maybury, the grade three teacher, once more proffered an apple to the petulant child.

"I won't!" Stuart said. "And you can't make me!"

Mrs Maybury glanced at Dr Greene. He nodded. She closed her eyes for a moment, then looked again at the boy.

"Now, dearie, I'm afraid you leave me no choice." With wrinkled, shaking hands Mrs Maybury reached into her desk draw and pulled out a large revolver. "Sweetie," she said to the boy, who stood staring down the gleaming barrel of the gun, "I'm sorry to say it, but you'll eat that apple or you'll eat lead!"

Later, Dr Greene reflected that Mrs Maybury could have handled things with more subtlety. But it was the first time Phase 2 of the Greene Method had been enacted, and it was only natural that Mrs Maybury be nervous. The point was: it had worked. Stuart Tewlock had eaten his apple, core and all, once he had stopped crying and been coaxed out from under a table. The Greene Method was therefore a success. And the flow-on effects (Phase 2b) in the form of propaganda were incalcuable. There was no need to make an announcement. Twenty of Stuart Tewlock's peers had witnessed the showdown, and it would take them only a few minutes of afternoon recess to spread the word to the other classes. Exagerration was also likely; with their natural inclination to dramatise, the children would certainly never understate the incident. As for telling their parents, or the police...

Dr Greene recalled with a smile the student-only assembly on the first morning of the third term when he had unveiled his Method. "Rule One," he had said, brandishing one of his recent purchases, delivered only minutes before the nine o'clock bell, "Rule One is: if a teacher has to ask you twice, the second time will be at gunpoint." There were the expected gasps, a few tears. "Rule Two: there is one automatic shootable offence: dobbing! I'm sure you understand what I mean. You tattle, you rattle!" (He had concocted this line on the drive to work, and although it was hardly perfect it was, he felt, better than the alternatives. "You tell, you go to hell"? "Blab and you'll end up on a slab"? Christ, he wasn't trying to scare anybody!) It was the ideal arrangement: unquestioning obedience with built-in safeguards. Best of all, it would help the children throw off the shackles of commercialism, of constant distraction and want. From now on they would be focused: on improving their minds, their health, their selves. And they had the Greene Method to thank for their freedom.

Within a month the school was running at an enviable level of efficiency. Grades were up, truancy down, the playground a utopia of co-operation and good will. Everybody seemed to be smiling - indeed they had to be, or else they would find themselves cleaning revolver barrels after school. Litter was no longer a problem, nor poor nutrition. At one point the students were eating so much fruit and vegetables that diarrhea reached epidemic proportions and limits had to be imposed. Overall, however, the students had never been so healthy, so quiet, or so nervously obedient.

"It's a miracle!" said Ms Findley one evening, having stopped by Dr Greene's house for dinner and sex.

"No, it's science," said Dr Greene. "Greene's Theorum: the obedience of a subject is in direct proportion to deadliness of the weapon aimed at their head."

"Oh you fancy man!" Ms Findley almost swooned.

"Ms Findley," said Dr Greene, "I am going to remove my pants and close my eyes. When I open them, I want you to be engaged in that thing I like."

"But Dr Greene, I haven't finished my chocolate mousse, and I don't..."

"Ms Findley," said Dr Greene, opening his shirt to reveal his gun, nestling in its holster. "Do I have to ask you twice?"

*

If Dr Greene had been a modest man all might have continued as it had begun. But he was not a modest man, and keeping his Method a secret was almost as painful for him as it was for his students, if not more so, since they were obliged to do so under threat of summary execution whereas he could, theoretically, have told anybody at any time. Having solved one of the principle dilemmas of education - how to steer one's pupils in the right direction without infringing upon their rights as individuals, to which Dr Greene's solution amounted to simply ignoring their rights as individuals - having done all this, Dr Greene felt he had the right to some recognition. He longed to write lengthy technical papers and popular books about the Greene Method. (Although, in his infrequent moments of self-doubt, he wondered just how much he could possibly expand upon the basic principle of "point a gun at them and tell them how high to jump".) He longed for fame, for appearances on current affairs programmes as an "education pioneer". He longed for women other than Ms Findley, who was beginning to get a bit clingy, and who kept referring to him as "bull-cock" as though it were the sexiest possible nickname. When a man has tamed three hundred children, and bent them to his will (all in their best interests, of course) it is only natural that a certain lust for power should develop.

So Dr Greene wrote an article for the Principal Review. The PR came out quarterly, was about four pages long, and was read by nobody. It mostly contained news that would have been of interest to principals if they hadn't already heard it via memos, reports, and the education grape-vine. Dr Greene, however, didn't have much choice. There were other education periodicals, but the PR was the only one desperate enough for material to accept a submission as unusual as Dr Greene's. The other publications were interested in papers on cognitive development or literacy programmes. Dr Greene just wanted the world to know how much easier things became when you pointed guns at children. The PR was the only forum going for that kind of thing, and its editors were renowned for their indolence. They would, simply, publish anything.

Dr Greene titled his piece "Cruel To Be Kind", for he could not resist a cliche. Not that Dr Greene considered his Method to be cruel, at least not in the long term. "Yes," he wrote, "the children we deal with today have been raised in a world in which guns are simply not pointed at them on a daily basis. Thus they are frightened, and they obey, as any creature does when threatened. In generations to come, however, the gun will elicit a more conditioned response. When directed by the gun, the children of the future will not cower, will not raise their small fat hands as if to ward off the bullet, will not shed tears of terror. Instead, the gun will hang like a cartoon anvil over their entire existence, and they will obey immediately, without conscious fear, but always in full knowledge of the consequences of disobedience. If the gun must be produced - and I feel this will rarely be the case, if children are properly conditioned in infancy - its effect will be instantaneous. I suggest that a gun-substitute - a picture of a gun, say, or even a banana - will in time elicit the same response as an actual gun. Trained to listen, to respond, future generations of children will be more educable than we at present can imagine. What a world we shall create, if my Method is implemented as widely as I dare to hope!"

When he had finished, Dr Greene emailed the article to the PR, and within an hour received a reply stating that it would appear in the next issue, due out later that same week. Dr Greene rubbed his hands together, adjusted some knick-knacks on his desk, and took off his pants.

"Ms Findley," he said into the PA microphone. "Ms Findley, may I please see you in my office."

The response to Dr Greene's article was subdued at first, but as more principals came to hear about it, so more of them fished the latest PR from their wastepaper bins and read it through. Dr Greene began receiving phone calls. Typically the principals began by cautiously commending him on his article, before going on to discuss some of the problems they felt were inherent in the scheme, until finally their reserve cracked and they confessed that they couldn't wait to implement the Greene Method at their own schools. Dr Greene smiled and laughed and revelled in the adulation. His own school was running like a well-oiled machine (God how he loved that cliche!) and now there were hundreds, perhaps thousands of schools heading in the same direction.

One thing briefly threatened to stifle the momentum he had built. Some parents got wind of the Method and started keeping their children home from school. Current affairs programmes were notified, talk radio alerted. For an afternoon and an evening, Dr Greene and his Method were the controversy du jour, and he had to do some swift thinking to avert disaster. After all, you couldn't just point a gun at the world and tell it what to do or think. Not a gun the size of Dr Greene's, anyway.

The following day he called a combined press conference and school assembly. The students sang the national anthem - all five verses of it, learned by rote at the feet of the Uzi-toting music teacher, Mr Backward - then Dr Greene answered his critics.

"You say it is wrong to point guns at children," he said, addressing the parents and reporters at the back of the room. "I say it is wrong not to point guns at children! Without guns they are slovenly, unhealthy, and have poor personal hygiene. They are constantly being distracted from their schoolwork by television, by merchandising - yes, by their very parents! With guns they are virtuous, hard-working and patriotic. They eat fruit! Yes, fruit! What further proof do you need of the value of my programme? The Greene Method is the way of the future. To those who have wondered: how do we fix this broken society, I say - guns! If the guns are in the right hands, and are pointed at the right heads, there is nothing we cannot achieve!"

Some resistance remained, but the majority of those present applauded Dr Greene's speech. Audience polls on radio and television gave the Greene Method the thumbs up, and the Prime Minister promised to "consider Dr Greene's very interesting proposal". Dr Greene could not stop smiling long enough to even threaten a grade one student for littering. That night he took Ms Findley in his arms, kissed her passionately, and told her to get the hell out of his sight.

*

When school returned the following year, all public schools, and many private, implemented the Greene Method. There had been protests over the summer, threatened boycotts, even an attempt on Dr Greene's life (Dr Greene shot his assailant in the leg, then forced him to pick up litter until the police arrived). Dr Greene himself had retired from teaching and set up the Greene Institute, an advisory body to the education department, with strong ties to the upper echelons of the military and police heirarchies.

That first year was tough on both teachers and students. There were incidents: two fourteen-year-olds were executed at one school for conspiracy to smoke Winnie Blues; a grade six student at an Adelaide primary managed to steal his teacher's gun and shoot half the faculty before being tasered by police; and a Year 12 class in Melbourne staged a boycott in protest at the new regime, half of them having to be shot before the rest agreed to return to class. Dr Greene maintained that these were teething problems, easily solved with enhanced firepower, and he was ultimately proven correct.

Ms Findley managed to rekindle her relationship with Dr Greene, and they married in the autumn of 20--. It transpired that Ms Findley's first name was actually Ms, while Dr Greene's was Bradley. Ms Findley vowed to refer to him as Dr Greene for as long as they both should live.

Made rich by the success of his Method, Dr Greene and his new bride set up home in a wine-producing area outside of Sydney, where they passed the time riding antique bicycles and playing snap. Tragically, two years after the Greene Method was implemented nation-wide, a group of teachers and senior students banded together to form the School Liberation Front. They succeeded in assasinating Dr Greene and Ms Findley-Greene, before embarking on a series of terrorist atrocities.

In response, the government announced that the Greene Method would be adapted for use throughout society. They also announced that they were buying a big bloody gun, big enough to be aimed at entire streets if necessary.

Things have been fairly quiet since, and we're all eating a lot more fruit.

3 comments:

JPW said...

What a bizarre and excellent tale. Very well done indeed sirrah!

weezil said...

I've always maintained that you can get more with a kind word and a gun than with merely a kind word.

Nice work. :)

Anonymous said...

From another associate in the dating world, I have to admit I'm embarrassed that Nigel Gohl is an Australian. But I'll agree that he should be in the firing line o/s.

I have read many books on the art of seduction, self development and all that 80 babes was the biggest piece of shit that I have invested in!

Nigel Gohl is not Australia's leading dating coach. He may be known to the general public, yet people who are really good with woman know what he really is.

My guess is that chick never ended up marrying him after reading his book and if she did then that's a miracle.