The Revolution

While the Prime Minister had promised to roll out the program, The Digital Education Revolution, at a cost of $1 billion, it has now turned into a $2 billion program with half the number of promised computers. THOUSANDS of broken laptops are being stockpiled at schools across the state as the federal government’s $2.4 billion Digital Education Revolution threatens to collapse. Photographs obtained by The Daily Telegraph show piles of damaged laptops on a technology support officer’s workbench at one Sydney school. The majority are the notorious red laptops owned by Year 9 students.

Terry threw the newspaper onto the desk and grimaced as he put one hand gingerly to his black eye, he had applied the concealer with great care to cover the injury. No good letting the kids have another reason to quiz him on his private life; no-one would have guessed the nerdy IT man fought MMA bouts in his spare time, squared off against “The Pit-bull” from the ‘Gong. He was glad though that he had got involved in the cage fighting because now it strangely prepared him for an average day at the office, particularly since that policy to give Year Nine their laptops got underway. Months before, his small work-room had always been a sanctuary. Occasionally a baby boomer staff member had interrupted his coffee drinking with an inane request like “how could YouTube be made full screen”. Or that old guy in the sports department had closed the lid of his laptop with a biro inside and cracked the glass. Generally these visits were quietly polite and infrequent. But then came the invasion.

Educators have long agonised over the issues that arise when students hit Year Nine – that awkward stage when they are no longer children, yet still a few years from being adults. Research by Jamaica Betta, a consulting psychologist, shows this group is the most at risk of losing interest: “their brain is at a turning point, developing in a way where they’re starting to question and challenge everything”. The typical Year Nine student is all the things teachers dread: difficult, rebellious, disengaged. Dick Tate, the headmaster of a local school commented on an average Year Nine student: “he is rude to teachers, he ignores instructions, and he is very hard to control. You name it, he would do it.” What exactly happens to teenagers at this stage of schooling that causes so many to tune out? Is it puberty, or is the education system too rigid and constraining? Even parents complain: “My child’s become feral!”

One mother wrote to her local paper, “whilst applauding the Government’s desire to invest in education and prompt action to realise its election promises, it would appear that many aspects of this policy have not been planned with sufficient care,” the letter said. There were concerns that the lack of funds would have to be compensated for by already financially crippled families. Some computers were being left in boxes, unopened due to a rumour, circulating like wildfire among parents, that there was an intrinsic flaw in the design of the laptops given to the children. They were breaking apart for no apparent reason and the parents unfairly may be expected to pay for the repair of the flimsy plastic cases and faulty screens. Bourgeoning public unrest finally filtered to the top. The Prime Minister was told that the policy was not thought through thoroughly and it was severely underfunded.  She sighed as she repeated, “The Digital Education Revolution is a reform program that was promised by my predecessor during the launch of his 2007 election campaign in Brisbane. It’s not my fault!”

Terry winced when he smiled at the memory of that first handout. The boys all signing that ridiculous set of rules: ‘Internet Etiquette for Teenagers.’ AS IF. In the ‘Us against Them’ mentality of these students it was a no-holds-barred blood sport just like his own fight club. It was a recipe for disaster, if they could get away with it they would, and feel like a gladiator in the process, sure thing no worries. What a laugh it was to give cyber weapons to these young storm troopers.

So what in God’s name were the politicians thinking? Who are their advisors? They could have just simply asked any teacher or parent of a fifteen year old and this policy nightmare would have been avoided. Most classrooms are set up with four power points if they are lucky, so imagine the logistics factor to be exploited even there by any canny Year-Niner who has been out skateboarding the night before instead of doing homework: “sorry miss, my battery‘s flat … o’ oh I haven’t got my power cord.”  Multiply that by twenty-eight teens and we have the insurgents winning the first skirmish.

The Daily Telegraph reported that Department of Education and Training’s Chief Information Officer, Verity Canwayt, claimed that the system on the laptops was impervious and no student would be able to hack through it. “Our internet filtering is unbreakable. We have a huge proxy array that does all the protective management. We want much tighter control over every web site. If you Google something and it’s not categorised, you can’t get to it.” That made Terry smirk when he read it; she had never met little Upton O’Goode.

The Year Nine students were playing “the game” before the start of school, consensually applying “choke holds” to each other to induce a “high”. This past-time went under a number of names including “choke out” or “five minutes of heaven” and the object was to achieve a high through asphyxiation, a desired floaty, tingling, orgasmic sensation. They interrupted the fun to arrange a small assault team of fifteen year old cyber crims who were assigned to reconfigure the school main-frame server’s filtering system, thus ensuring the cohort access to all their favourite social media sites, which had been banned by the Director of Studies to ensure a focus on academic work. Terry’s first awareness of the students’ success in dismantling this protection came after a cyber-bullying issue led to an incident involving one boy who became a whistle blower on the same day he handed back his computer, just prior to being hastily withdrawn from the school by his angry parents. Further searching revealed that the young ‘Assanges’ had  gained access to the teachers’ report comments and mark spread sheets in order to make modifications to the results which would then be more pleasing to their parents.

But the last straw for Terry was work overload caused by the breaking plastic cases. This was an insult to his training and intelligence. More the job for some handyman than for a highly accomplished programmer such as himself. But still they rolled in, until eventually his three metre by two metre bunker was more than half taken up with stacks of red laptops, screens all cracked, plastic cases in tatters. The students were obviously targeting him, they were campaigning against him and all because of that sign on the door: “only one student at a time to enter the IT office.” Some sick sense of humour, probably the idea of that smart-arse Joe King who would have thought: “ok, then let’s make sure just one can fit in there.” Only a Year Nine would be weird enough to think like that. Any kid can break the case of a laptop, now they don’t have to conjure up some complicated IT glitch in order to hand it in broken: “just step on it” said Joe to one of the young footballers who had never been quite sure how to type in his ID or username in the first place. “Now go and give it to that nerdy Mr Fie who won’t let us all hide in his room to miss the history lesson.”

Terry stacked the lap-tops carefully to create a small hidden space at the back of his cell-like depository. Gradually he would stow their bodies in a non-functioning electronic grave, and serve them right. His practised upper cut would knock them senseless, well unconscious anyway, ‘sense’ and ‘Year Nine’ is an oxymoron he could not accommodate. The first response to his trick announcement that boys could collect their repaired machines came by recess and Terry was spirited straight back into the Mixed Martial Arts cage where opponents can punch, kick, knee, elbow, throw, strangle and stomp with impunity. He pulled the first body into its polycarbonate coffin.

A full check of the school campus has revealed no sign of any other body cache in relation to the MASS MURDER. A spokeswoman has refused to comment on the link to an IT worker who is being held by police to assist them with their inquiries. The government’s report obtained by The Daily Telegraph points to weeks of unrest in the school which has been traced back to cyber bullying and it is thought this could be a possible cause for the gruesome massacre.


About clareseligman

A flash fiction/short story writer with an interest in the themes of cultural studies, travel, music, teaching, sailing and snow skiing.
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