His Own Particular Drummer
Back in 1951, I wrote a story called " The Fun They Had." It was only a thousand words long and its plot was a simple one—
Two children of the twenty-second century find an old book that, among other things, reveals the nature of the educational system of the twentieth century. To their astonishment they discover that large groups of children once went to special buildings to be subjected to community education by human teachers.
As the younger child, Margie, returns to her own home where her own teaching machine is waiting to continue working with her on proper fractions, the story concludes:
She was thinking about the old schools they had when her grandfather's grandfather was a little boy. All the kids from the whole neighborhood came, laughing and shouting in the schoolyard, sitting together in the schoolroom, going home together at the end of the day. They learned the same things so they could help one another on the homework, and talk about it.
And the teachers were people....
The mechanical teacher was flashing on the screen: "When we add the fractions 1/2 and 1/4 ..."
Margie was thinking about how the kids must have loved it in the old days. She was thinking about the fun they had.
The circumstances surrounding the writing of the story were these. An old friend of mine was editing a syndicated children's newspaper page, and he asked me for a little science-fiction story. I was in the mood to try irony and I was certain that children have as keen a sense of irony as adults do.