The bell rang, so everyone sat quietly in their desks waiting for instructions. Then, the voice blasted out from the loudspeaker “Good morning, Class. Please be seated and then open your books to page 21.”
All of the students in Mr. Pavlov’s class had already been trained for several years in the proper procedure for education. When the bell rings, then they interrupt their spontaneous explorations and interactions in order to wait for the command of the ruling authority (their local director of attention, perception, and response).
The voice read the words from the script of page 21: “In an advanced civilization like ours, the most important quality that sets our group apart from the lesser civilizations is the quality of honesty. Students, is that true or false?”
All at once, the entire herd of students chanted “true” and then clapped their hands a single time. This was the normal routine in every classroom in the entire empire. The sacred curriculum specifies the common core to be memorized in full by every member of the religion. After memorizing each principle in the common core, then the students receive validation and rewards for repeating the slogan back to the ministers of education (on the goodness exams which rate how good a student is).
“Very good, all of you. True is the correct answer. Now, which student is so good that they can also tell me what honesty means? You will say the answer in your own voice but use the exact wording of the sacred definition on page 21. Anyone can answer. Look at page 21 and look halfway down the page to find the official correct definition of honesty. Do you see it? Next, get ready to read it out loud in a moment. Okay, the time to begin reading is… now!”
All at once, Mr. Pavlov’s class began to recite the words of the official definition of honesty. They began speaking each word in the stable rhythm of a metronome: “Honesty is saying exactly what you’ve been told to say by a valid officer of the holy empire.”
With great emotion, like a grandmother pretending to be astounded by a toddler’s skill at walking, Mr. Pavlov said “Wow… that was truly amazing, class! You are all so good at being honest. You are so much more honest than any class that I have ever had in the past. I must be the luckiest instructor in the whole empire to have students as honest as you!”
The classroom responded with subdued giggling. A few moments later, the huge electronic viewing screen, which had been blank so far, displayed the words “Special bonus opportunity!”
This of course was the normal process every day in Mr. Pavlov’s class, but what exactly was the special bonus opportunity going to be today? The class was eager to know the answer and then compete for the special bonus, whatever it was.
The loudspeaker boomed the next challenge. “True or false: everyone should be honest?”
Suddenly, as they all had been carefully trained to do, the students raised their right arms in the imperial salute. This was the same as the old salute of the ancient enemy.
The people of the ancient enemies were all programmed to raise up their right arm high in to the air (so that their hand would be higher than their head, which made it easier for the authority to see the raised hands). However, Mr. Pavlov’s class was much more special than the ancient enemies because when these students raised their hands, they also stretched out their fingers and made their hands tremble and shake, which was a sign of their extreme eagerness to be honest.
You are totally shocked when Mr. Pavlov calls your name, causing your heart to race with excitement. As usual, the selected student would get up from the desk and come up to the front of the room to stand and face the class.
The other students begin to chant the word “bonus” over and over as they snap their fingers in time with their chanting. When you finally arrive to the designated area, the lighting around the classroom dims and a spotlight is shining on you alone.
“First, congratulations on being selected for the special bonus opportunity. You must feel very honored today. As you know, the rules are that I will repeat the question. Next, you will have three seconds to select an answer and then you will clearly state your answer for everyone to hear. Do you understand?”
Though you are slightly out of breath for some reason, you manage to say “Yes.” You do not even notice that your hands are also starting to sweat.
The voice of Mr. Pavlov once again comes through the loudspeaker. “Okay here is the official special bonus opportunity question. True or false: everyone should be honest?”
As part of their role, the rest of the class counts down the 3 seconds out loud. “Three… two… one….”
You are incredibly excited because you are absolutely sure that you are going to get it right. “True,” you shout.
“Is that your final answer,” asks Mr. Pavlov. “Is your final answer… true?”
“Yes, my final answer is true,” you say. You notice that the spotlight is very intense and you are reminded of a TV show that you saw once about a local civil military officer who was asking a series of questions to someone. The name of the show was “The Inquisitor’s Interrogation.”
“That is correct!” shouted Mr. Pavlov. Immediately, the herd of students erupts in to cheering and clapping.
You look around at some of your childhood friends cheering for you. You smile and reach out your arm in the imperial salute, waving your fingertips at them. They all keep cheering. As if you were sprinkling something from your fingers, you begin to move your arm back and forth from side to side.
“Stop” shouts Mr. Pavlov. This has never happened before. Everyone goes silent.
Several moments pass and again you notice the brightness and intensity of the spotlight. It is also notably warmer up here than at your assigned desk.
“Because of the extreme goodness and honesty of this student, we have another question. True or false: not only should everyone be honest, but anyone who is not honest should be severely punished.”
“True,” you blurt out. Then you cover your mouth, realizing that you answered before the right time.
The rest of the class gasps. The spotlight suddenly turns off and the regular lights of the room come back on. You broke the rules by speaking out of turn. Your legs start to tremble.
Mr. Pavlov says over the loudspeaker. “Well, I am very sorry, but we cannot accept the contestant’s recent answer, even though technically it was accurate. As you all know, it is against the rules to speak out of turn. As part of the penalty, we are canceling the reward that would have been received for the correct answer of the prior question. Further, the contestant will now report to the central disciplinary office for the school nurse to test for disorderly mental health in the form of an attention deficit.”
“But it was an accident. I mean I really only spoke out of turn accidentally,” you say as an apology.
“Silence!” shouts Mr. Pavlov. “You are only making it worse. This is not your time to speak. Report to the school nurse immediately. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” you say. You lower your head and begin walking past the other students. You notice that some of your closest friends have put their heads all the way down on their desks and covered their eyes.
“The show is over. The rest of the class will now return their attention to page 21,” the voice on the loudspeaker continues.
As you walk, the voice gets quieter and quieter. “This is a very important page because 21 is when a participant in our religion will automatically be given the privilege of paying taxes at the maximum rate.
The fifty percent tithe of the full participants (those who have reached the 21st stage or beyond) will support the further advance of our sacred civilization. Their voluntary contributions allow us to protect the rest of the world from dishonesty and introduce them to the advantages of our civilization. Now students, please all of you pay close attention at this time because here is a true or false item that will be on the very important test next week. True or false: a fifty percent tithe rate is the most honest percentage for a government to set, which is why our government is so much better than any of the dishonest governments who set the rates at thirty percent or even sixty percent.”
What will happen when you get to the school nurse’s office? Maybe they will prescribe more medications for you. You already are taking all of the standard medications that every student is required to take, including 3 shots every week to stay current on your vaccinations and of course the mandatory birth control sterility medicines.
What else will the nurse dictate to you as your behavioral program so that you can earn your way back in to the sacred classroom? You do not know exactly what penance she will announce to you, but you do actually feel very special to have had the honor to participate in the special bonus opportunity, even though your dishonest spontaneity ruined everything. In the future, you will try much harder to be perfect in general and, in particular, to pretend to look more relaxed.