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The Way Things Are Going

Could this be the timeline of events for America's school districts?

2009: More technology—computers, interactive whiteboards, visual presenters, and more—is in school districts than ever before, but school budgets are under considerable strain. Wildly fluctuating fuel, food and energy costs and a struggling economy have impacted school districts across the country, contributing to the rise of cost-saving measures such as four-day weeks, energy-efficient green buildings, online virtual schooling and virtual field trips.

2012: After a brief decline, fuel, food and energy costs have continued to increase, pressuring district budgets. One ambitious, cost-cutting district launches the nation’s first “four-day month.” The federal government finally steps in, reforming the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act and renaming it the “No Child Rides the Bus without Bringing Gas Money Act.”

2016: Food costs continue to rise; 75 percent of teachers and administrators now qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. “Merit pay” now refers to extra bowls of porridge. Gasoline is now so expensive, full one-gallon cans are commonly received as wedding gifts; ExxonMobil opens a bridal registry. The high cost of energy makes school buildings too expensive for most districts to maintain, creating a new market for highly affordable, low-maintenance “school tents.” Many discover that projectors and interactive whiteboard programs also function on white canvas. Tent Administration magazine launched.

2020: Due to worldwide demand continuing to drive up the cost of food, districts look for creative cafeteria options; many add “Big Game Hunting” and “Whaling” units to their physical education curricula. “No Child Left Behind!” is now nothing more than a rallying cry of dangerous sixth-grade elk hunting expeditions in Montana. Fearing for the safety of students amid national economic instability and growing lawlessness, many schools discover that video projectors, student laptops, interactive whiteboards and the like can be melted down and formed into spears, clubs and other weaponry. The first “Smelting and Blacksmithing” magnet school appears.

2024: Amazingly enough, fuel costs continue to increase. Many districts now pull buses with oxen teams. In an effort to reduce transportation costs, nationwide implementation of virtual schools and virtual field trips continues, and this year the first “virtual superintendents” appear. As artificial intelligence software programs, virtual superintendents hire and fire teachers, battle school boards, improve test scores of students, and collect an average of $150,000 in virtual annual compensation.

2028: Virtual superintendents unionize and force out living, breathing superintendents. Soon these virtual superintendents begin hiring only “virtual teachers” in order to save on salaries, pensions and other costs. Virtual teachers soon unionize, ensuring that even malfunctioning programs remain in well-paid, tenure-track positions.

2032: The cost of educating real students is deemed too high, as fuel, food and now tent prices continue to climb; the first cost-saving “virtual students” are implemented. By the end of the decade, superintendents, teachers and students have become entirely artificial intelligence software programs. All of American education is now an autonomous software program operating in a server room in the basement of the Library of Congress and can be visited online in a virtual field trip. An education debate rages in Congress, as Democrats want to provide billions of dollars in funding to upgrade the software every year, while Republicans want to either provide ways for virtual students to attend the server of their choice, or unplug the thing and let the free market sort it out.

2050: Most Americans have now fled to caves in the Rocky Mountains, where a total lack of technology results in a new resurgence of classical education, with barefoot, toga-clad, olive-eating educators teaching primarily math, geometry and philosophy; abacus sales skyrocket. Malicious virtual intelligence robots control the rest of America; the Terminator and Mad Max movies are now filed under “comedy.” The Virtual Superintendents’ Union votes to sell now-abandoned American school buildings to Dubai, which develops them into a chain of luxury hotels. The intensive classical education taking place in American caves results in 100 percent of students finally reaching the level of test scores required under the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act.

Kurt O. Dyrli is products editor.