Thursday, 10 July 2014

Chapter 38. Of Galactic Education

At Camp Two, the Tuglay’s course had started on the Monday, the same Monday that I spent mainly at Camp Four.

Since we now had trainees from countries no-one in the Team knew much about – Japan, for example – I had asked those trainees to work with John and Galina, to help us find out what was happening in their countries, and to identify those in power there that deserved the Punishment Pit.

And several of the Team had expressed interest in finding out about what the Tuglay were teaching the trainees. I made an agreement with the Tuglay that Team members could sit in on classes in the common room.

Each morning, there was a re-arrangement of furniture. The plush seats of the common room were moved to the sides of the room, and enough chairs and tables for the class moved in from the dining room. And each evening, the move was reversed.

That left the plush seats to be taken by the observers. Shami, who had been a teacher back in India, was the most regular, though frequently she had to nip out to load or unload George Washing-tun. Ben, a former instructor, and with much of his work being done in the evenings, liked to observe often too. And I eavesdropped when I could.

Now, many years before, I had studied mathematics at Cambridge. One abiding memory I had of that time was of how fast the course went. It started from near zero. Even someone who had never formally studied the subject could try. But, within six weeks, all the mathematics I had learned at school – apart from a very few specialist areas – had been covered. And it carried on at the same speed for two more terms.

I survived that, but many didn’t. The drop-out rate among my peers was around one-third, in the first year alone.

And this course went fully as fast. At first, many of the trainees were blasé. “I don’t need any more training at my age,” one – in his thirties – told me. A week later, he was complaining of overload.

I came to understand why the Tuglay were so renowned as teachers. First, their own speech of susurrations and clicks was remarkably fast. Their translators were, too. The effect was little different from being taught by a native English speaker.

Second, their way of teaching was what some might think of as old-fashioned. Bring up a topic, elucidate, invite reactions, and respond. Then test the understanding of all, including those who hadn’t asked questions. And they did it always with logic, often with humour, and always with respect for the students.

Third, the Galactic way they taught had a strong moral foundation, which the trainees found natural and attractive. For most of them were more than averagely honest, productive, peaceful and individual people, even before they started the course. They would not have been picked as trainees otherwise. Even the politicians among the trainees all had far more integrity than is usual in that corrupt profession.

Gradually, something changed. Every one of these intellectuals, professionals, ordinary business people and minor politicians seemed to grow as people – as individuals. They became more open to new ideas. They became more resistant to lies, frauds and false guilt. Those among them, who were not already confident, grew in confidence. They saw themselves, and each other, for what they were; human beings, fit and ready to be invited to join in the Galaxy.

They became, slow step by slow step, apostles of revolution. But they were fifty-nine, not twelve.

One day, my European parliamentary friend said to me, “I almost feel young again.” And I, metaphorically, kicked myself. Why had I not asked for the trainees to be treated by Galant’I while on their way back to Earth? I had even made a mental note to that effect, when several of them had reported toothache. But I had forgotten about it. Slow, stupid me. Fortunately, there was probably enough time to do something about it.

As to the second wave, I had some thinking to do.

* * *

The food team of Ray, Jenna and Marie did a great job. Broadly, we had Seraphim food six days a week. And Earth’s best on Sundays, Pulled by the hunter Cees.

In the evenings, Ben became “mine host,” dispensing the wine and beer (and, on Monday nights, Hooch Juice) with the best of grace. One thing which greatly helped our beer supplies was that Cees had decided, without my authorization, to Pull as a trainee a friend who happened to be a director of his favourite small brewery. Noting the gentleman’s enthusiasm for his product, and much enjoying the drinking of it, I gave Cees’s action my belated blessing.

The monitoring continued. We were actually finding it easier than we expected to predict where those slated for punishment were likely to be at any particular time. So we spent more time looking for candidates for the second wave of trainees.

Michael and Gabriel were there now mainly to be friendly faces, and to pilot the rides. Of which there were four or occasionally five each weekday evening, from the 16. (Hoong and Lily each piloted twice a week.) As it was now autumn at Camp Two, descending towards winter, the later rides were increasingly in the dark.

* * *

Meanwhile, I was still very much concerned with Camp Four. Balzo and Odam, between them, had decided that it was too late to bring in a project consultant; we had to work with what we had. Instead, Balzo asked Gabriel and me to spend one night a week at Camp Four. This in addition to the regular radio communications, which I didn’t find nearly as effective as talking with Gelmar face to face.

So, each Tuesday, when Gavantchin took Gelmar back to Camp Four, Gabriel and I went too, returning on the Wednesday. When Zer’ael didn’t come – which was usual – Gabriel took the co-pilot’s seat, so there was space for Lily too.

Things at Camp Four had settled down a lot since the Ke’lan left. The Tuglay’s courses had restarted, and the Cherubim had resumed their role as unquestioned guardians of the Fort. My focus, in my times at Camp Four, was on trying to work out how best to organize the Brjemych equivalent of P-Day, when they would Pull the bad Brjemych for punishment. And on what we all had to do, and when, to make happen what needed to happen.

* * *

As the weeks went on, the emphasis at Camp Two moved from classes towards individual tuition.

I thought that perhaps I had gone over the top in asking our Tuglay to assess each trainee beforehand. For individuals’ strengths now were often not the same as they had been back then. But the Tuglay set me right, and amusingly.

“Nohow,” said Tuglaydum. “This course is far better because we did those assessments.”

“Contrariwise,” said Tuglaydee, “whenever we give this course again, we will always assess each individual student first.”

I smiled, in the best imitation I could of a Cheshire Cat.

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