Chris and Jade discover the new Scout Academy isn’t quite what they expected.
At the going away party thrown for Jade and me by my old neighborhood, my friend Tony told me, “Now, you can show those galactics what ‘smart’ really means. They aren’t going to know what hit them!”
I thought Tony was crazy. With a whole galaxy full of smart people to choose from, I was certain there would be plenty of cadets who would know a lot more than I did. And, I was right—most of them did know a lot more than me, but only because they came from more advanced planets than I did. It was really odd—the cadets knew all sorts of facts, but they had no idea what to do with that knowledge. It was like they got their head stuffed full of learning, but no one taught them how to use it.
As it turned out, that was exactly the problem. The Federation had all sorts of amazing teaching machines. They’d hook us up before we went to sleep, and we’d wake up with a head full of physics or mathematics or whatever. But, if you never get a chance to do anything with that knowledge, you never really develop an understanding of it. It’s like having someone teach you how to use carpenter tools, never actually using the tools, but assuming you know how to build a house because of the teaching. I think that is the real problem with Federation education—lots of teaching, but not a lot of doing.
Apparently, the Scout Academy agreed with me. Our classes all dealt with taking the knowledge stuffed in our heads at night and teaching us cadets how to use it.
Before our first class, I thought this was a good approach. I was looking forward to the same kind of good-natured competition ensigns had on board Mordanian airships during navigation drills. Of course, it wasn’t always good-natured—all of us were vying for a limited number of promotions, after all—but that just spurred everyone to try harder. I expected something like that for my first class, complete with cutting remarks and criticisms directed at those who got the answers wrong—first, from the officers teaching us and then, after class, from the cadets to each other. At the risk of sounding boastful, I really was looking forward to having a little competition in the realm of mathematics and physics.
I didn’t get it. Competition, that is. I got the answers. I got them quickly and, the vast majority of the time, correctly. Only, no one knew, because none of the faculty called on any cadets from lost colonies. Ever.
For instance, in my astrogation class, the officer teaching us spent the first half of the class explaining the real universe uses of our most recent sleep learning. Then, he sent a problem to our data pads and we would solve it using what we learned in the first half of the class. Our data pads had icons we would tap when we found the answer. The icon sent a signal to the instructor’s data pad, which chimed, informing him which cadets were finished.
The first time we did this, I was the first cadet to tap the icon. During my Navy days, the officer in charge would immediately check the answer and, either congratulate the Ensign for a correct answer or berate him for a wrong one. At the Academy, the instructor heard the chime, checked his datapad, eyed me curiously, and that was it. He didn’t ask for my answer. He didn’t call my solution up on his own datapad. Other than the look, he ignored me.
Thinking the instructor’s data pad must have checked my answer and marked it as wrong, I double-checked my work. I was still working on that when the instructor’s data pad chimed several times in a row, indicating other cadets completed their work, also. Only then, did the instructor call on a cadet—a cadet from a Federation world. From there, events were more familiar. The instructor criticized the cadet for getting the wrong answer, then he called on a different cadet. The second cadet was also from a Federation world. In fact, every cadet called upon was from a Federation world. After the first five cadets all had wrong answers, the officer berated the whole class. Then, he sent the correct solution to our data pads.
I took a slightly different approach than the officer, but my solution was correct. I waited for the officer to ask if any of us had gotten the right solution. He never bothered.
This happened every time, in every class. No one from a lost colony was ever called on. Our solutions were never examined. It was as if we didn’t exist. At the end of the first week, I finally blew up. Not in class, but while eating with Jade, Pete, and Joy.
Sitting at our usual table in the mess hall, Jade noticed something was bothering me. “What’s wrong, Chris? You’re being awfully quiet.”
“It’s nothing,” I muttered.
Jade gently caressed my back. “It’s not nothing. Your back is so tense, it feels like I’m rubbing a rock instead of a man. What’s going on?”
When I just shook my head, Pete said, “I’m pretty sure he’s upset because all of the instructors keep ignoring him in class. Chris is always one of the first cadets to work out the solutions to the problems they give us, but none of the officers ever ask him for his solution. They always ask one of us cadets from the Federation. I know it’s eating Chris up, but I can’t get him to talk about it.”
I sighed, “From my days in the Mordanian Navy, I learned to handle my problems with officers by doing a better job. If you show an officer that you learn from your mistakes and that you do know what you are doing, the problems take care of themselves. But I can’t show these officers anything if they won’t even look at me or my work. None of us cadets from the lost colonies can.”
“Jade and I thought it was just happening in the piloting program,” Joy said. “I didn’t know you guys were having the same problem.”
“Wait a minute,” Pete asked, “you’re seeing the same thing? The piloting instructors only pay attention to the Federation cadets?”
“That’s what I said, isn’t it?” Joy snapped.
I put an arm around Jade. “Why didn’t you say something to me?”
Jade kept rubbing my back. “Why didn’t you?”
“I…didn’t want to upset you.” I leaned my head against Jade’s. “I figured everything was going fine in your piloting classes.”
Jake nodded, “I know what you mean. That’s the same reason I didn’t say anything to you.”
Pete touched Joy’s arm. “Okay, we know why our love-besotted friends didn’t say anything, but why didn’t you? At least to me, if you didn’t want to say it in front of Chris.”
“Because it’s not as bad for me as it is for Jade. I come from a world with spaceflight, even if it isn’t interstellar spaceflight. Instructors don’t ignore me as much as they do most of the other cadets from lost colonies.”
“The problem is, I don’t know what we can do about it,” Jade muttered.
I met Jade’s gaze, and then Joy’s and Pete’s, as well. “Don’t be so sure about that. I think I’ve figured out what I’m going to do.”
Pete nodded once, as if he’d expected nothing else. “What can I do to help?”
I shook my head. “Nothing, Though I appreciate the offer.”
“So, what’s your big plan, roomie?”
I looked down at my untouched plate of food. “I’m going to force the issue, and pray I don’t get thrown out of the Academy when I do.”
What is Chris’s plan? Find out in Chapter 18, coming Monday.