Persian University Letter No. 5

The Shock-Producers

My Dear Usbek:

For weeks I have watched the antics of these strange people at Dravrah and have told you of the absurd and puerile things that go on in the name of education. What I have seen convinces me that most of the Satellites do not know what education is. They are told they are getting it, so they believe they are. They think it is the product of a formula which they state as follows:

"Take six courses in any subject and memorize with concentration. Sprinkle four more in equal distribution. Then throw in another seven according to taste; and season with a reading knowledge of Chinese or Sanscrit and an elementary knowledge of the other Mix thoroughly. Stir in liberal portions of athletics and, if possible, a select clan, or two to give the right tone Add an occasional pinch of sensuality, and soak for four years in alcohol. If the resulting mixture has the right consistency, stamp with an official seal, wrap in parchment, and lay on a shelf. These ingredients will produce an education of approved brand. It will pass current at face value ever after and will admit the possessor to the best of fellowship. Caution: Preserve the parchment."

This formula is a good one, Usbek, for it produces exactly what it proposes.

My latest discovery at Dravrah has revealed to me a most extraordinary phenomenon. In all my travels I have never encountered a fact so surprising as the one I am about to relate to you. I was totally unprepared to find it here, of all places, for what I had seen and heard of these Satellites led me to look upon them in spite of their peculiarities, as a superior breed of men, above the weaknesses of common human nature. The truth is, that almost all of these young men are afflicted with a strange malady which suffuses them with drowsiness, so that, no matter where they are or what they are doing, they are always on the point of falling asleep. Many of them, indeed, are in such an advanced stage of the disease that they can sleep with their eyes open, and they go about all day long walking and talking as if they were awake, but they are sound asleep. Upon learning this I no longer wondered at the strange things I have witnessed. In congruities are natural enough in dreams.

To combat the disease, there has come into being at Dravrah a class of people of hybrid nature, something between Prophezzors and Satellites, called Shock-Producers, whose function it is to awaken the sleepers. For some reason unintelligible to me the Shock-Producers occupy a relatively unimportant position at present; but their significance seems destined to increase, because they strike at the root of the evil at Dravrah. Their task is tremendous and requires the greatest skill and ingenuity. They must shock the Satellites in such a way as to awaken them without killing them, and in some cases it seems impossible to do one without the other.

If I had not already had pretty definite ideas about education, my dear Usbek, I think this last discovery would have suggested them to my mind. Education is something to be acquired. It is not a product--but a process--a process of continuous and complete development which has no end. It is like the budding of a plant. The motive force must come from within. It is a mistake to say, as they are saying here at Dravrah that they are educating men. They are not, and never will. All they can do here is to offer facilities for use. Education is always self-imposed.

I have heard much talk of systems and formulae. Most of it seems to me sheer nonsense. To some extent education may be aided by system, but more often will be hindered by it. No two men are exactly alike. Among the Satellites these differences are enormous. Yet all systems assume a false uniformity. The unit of education is the individual, and the great problem of education is to awaken him. I believe the high reputation Dravrah has in the outside world rests on just this: that they really see the problem, and are trying to solve it. Mirza.

From Kambrij,

The 20th of the Moon of Gemmadi.

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