Barefoot In the head

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Location: Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear, United Kingdom

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

My School on Saturday


My school is shaped like a hexagon. I know that’s a big word, but it’s simple. Really. A hexagon has six sides. My school is a hexagon because it has six sides. Do you know why? Well, because six carbon atoms can make a hexagon. When carbon atoms join up they do this with bonds. Like tiny elastic strings that join them. One string is called a single bond and two strings are called a double bond. Double bonds are stronger than single bonds, of course. When six carbon atoms make a hexagon, they use one single bond, then a double bond, then a single and so on. That makes the hexagon stronger. And then, you can fix a hydrogen atom to each carbon atom, at all the corners of the hexagon, and you get a molecule called Benzene. Benzene smells rather nice and it burns like petrol, so you have to be very careful with it.

The benzene ring.


Benzene is very important. It’s because of Benzene that we have life on Earth. Benzene rings can join up together to make really big molecules. That’s what our bodies are made of. Trees, animals, food, plastics are all made of benzene rings. Everyone knows this of course. I learnt this when I was very little and now I look for more complicated things because I am much older. I am nine, and a half.

My school is shaped to look like a Benzene ring from the air. There are six circular domes connected by corridors, double corridors for the double bonds and single corridors for the single bonds. The domes are called C1 to C6. Connected to each dome there is another small corridor leading to six smaller circular rooms called H1 to H6.

We can do what we like in my school. First, we decide what we want to know and how to know it. Sometime we choose study. This means you have to listen to a teacher and write down what she says. Most of the time we learn – by getting together with our friends and surfing and searching the Cloud. I don’t like studying much because it makes me feel sleepy.

My school


On Saturday, Pa and Mum and I had a big breakfast, but things were not good after that. Pa got really annoyed with mum and threw his coffee on the ground. They were arguing and made me go up to my room. I didn’t want to so I stood near the door until Pa said, ‘Jini, get out’ so loudly that I started to cry and ran upstairs. I knew then he was going to hit mum and I heard her sobbing and falling.

I tried not to listen but they were really loud, so I put on my earplugs and told Prime that I was not happy. Prime said to take it near the door so it could listen too. Pa was saying things I couldn’t understand and he was kicking and slapping my mum.

‘Go to school, Jini’, said Prime.

‘But its Saturday’

‘GO TO SCHOOL’, Prime said, loudly.

I put Prime in its silicone case, hung it around my neck and slipped out of the back door. It took twenty minutes of running to reach school and it was all closed. Prime connected with school and everything came on at once. I could not see very well because I was crying. Not a lot, you know. Just a bit.

All the walls in my school are of glass and I ran into H4 because I saw Granny Diane come on sleepily on the wall. She is my best friend, although she was not looking her best, early morning in her country, Belgium, four and a half hours behind Indian time.

‘Good morning, Diane, why are you here on Saturday?’, I asked.

‘Your Prime called me Jini, are you OK?’

Diane has a soft voice and it makes me feel very comfortable so we sat and talked for a long time. Diane told me about people and relationships and how not to get worried about things. She was also typing all the time, I could tell, although she pretended not to.

I ended up having a really good time that morning because two kids from Malaga came on the side screen and we played with virtual Lego for a while. It was a bit slow because we had to use Google Voice Translate to talk – they speak only Spanish in Malaga, you know. Then Mr. Maskall from Australia came on looking very sleepy because it was past his bedtime and told me about the time we found life on Titan and how excited everyone was.

At four, Prime said I should go home, so I went and school locked itself up.

My parents were out and Prime said they had gone to a counsellor and would be back in the evening. I propped Prime up on the lawn and played virtual tennis with it until I was really tired. Then we went in and Played SimCity for a while. You know, a city runs really well if you adjust the demand-supply curves properly.

Monday is curriculum day. Oh, I know it’s another big word but we have to do it. Curriculum is about what we have to learn. Every Monday we decide what we want to learn that week. We look for BIG questions on the Cloud and also ask the Granny Cloud of course. Then we make up a plan and take it to Mrs Steel. She then makes a plan for us. Prime said Sumeeta is online and I connected.

‘I don’t have any time, Jini’, said Sumeeta. She always says that and then talks for an hour. She told me about how seasonal fruits have the right vitamins for us, but the question is why is it that way? Really, do they know what we need? That’s a cool question I thought. Prime said it will remember that question for Monday.

‘I hope they don’t ask all this in the exam’, I said to Prime.

‘Exams are only to find out if you know how to learn something’, said Prime

‘Of course I know how to learn things, stupid!’

‘Well the school needs to know that’, said Prime in a matter of fact way. I put Prime upside down and it went to sleep.

Mum and Pa came back at six. I was a bit anxious but it was OK. Pa said he was sorry about what happened in the morning and he will try not to be that way again

I know! I know what happened. Their Primes must have listened in the morning too. And then talked to my Prime. And they must have talked to Diane, that’s why she was up so early and why she was text chatting while talking to me. She must have organised the counselling.

I woke Prime up and asked about counselling. Prime said the counsellors try to calm people down when they are angry and sometimes use medicines. They used to do this to children a long time ago, when they thought children who don’t pay attention have some disease. But someone found out that it is adults who make children behave that way and invented medicines to treat them, the adults. Lucky us!

Pa had got himself a very big whiskey and was sitting watching 3V in the living room. Mum looked quite cheerful and was playing with her Prime. I sat down next to Pa, his stomach is like a trampoline, very nice.

‘I am having a bad time in office’, said Pa, ‘the quantum entanglement storage device isn’t storing half as much data as it should, I can’t even get a thousand terabytes in a square micron’

I had heard him complain about this before.

‘I am going to ask Serge on Monday, maybe he will have an idea’. I said.

‘Who is Serge?’, asked Pa

‘He is very old, more than 110 years, but he says he knows a bit about quantum entanglement. He is there on Mondays on the Granny Cloud’

Pa sat up and stared at me, ‘Do you mean Serge Haroche?’

‘He won the Nobel Prize!’

‘Yes, I think that’s him’, I said, yawning.

Pa was silent for a while. Then he got up and went to the kitchen sink and poured his whiskey out. Then he came back and we talked about collapsing waves of probability. Even mum didn’t interrupt.

That night I dreamt of an old man with a funny German name. He put a cat into a box with some poison that may or may not work, and closed the lid. He said, as long as the box remained closed, the cat was alive and dead at the same time. As soon as you open the box, it would be either alive or dead.

It’s funny what old people say.

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18 Comments:

Blogger Nikhil Sheth said...

Lovely! This story transported me to memories of reading Arthur C Clarke's short stories. They're such a brilliant way to show a whole world - it feels like I'm peeping in through the window, and little details are coming in bit by bit.

November 13, 2012 at 7:31 AM  
Blogger Vasant Hede said...

If any great director reading this, Sugaa Mitra has given you a great layout of a massive cool future movie!
being a educationists, Sir Sugata Mitra hats off to you! You are such a genius!

March 5, 2013 at 1:44 AM  
Blogger Vasant Hede said...

This is the most interesting blog i have ever read!

March 5, 2013 at 1:51 AM  
Blogger Obu Ramaraj said...

This blog is simply amazing - so cool that I wish for education to be this way in a short period of time..

March 5, 2013 at 4:41 PM  
Blogger Vasant Hede said...

I cant stop reading this again and again! :)

March 7, 2013 at 1:38 AM  
Blogger Lyra Josefsson said...

Please help me with questions and ideas to pose to 4-5-6-7 year olds...Thanks

March 18, 2013 at 7:30 PM  
Blogger Pratik Purohit said...

very interesting words

April 17, 2013 at 5:11 AM  
Blogger Sonal Kapoor said...

So brilliant. So subtle. Am in love with this post!

July 14, 2013 at 3:10 PM  
Blogger onur yeşildağ said...

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October 28, 2013 at 2:38 AM  
Blogger hari said...

hats of sir.. remembering my old days.. Thanks.

December 15, 2013 at 4:36 AM  
Blogger Jake Crutchfield said...

Sugata,

This post nearly brought me to tears. I can't stop smiling after reading it. Thank you for sharing such a moving piece.

Your foresight and vision are quite grand. I look forward to meeting prime.

-Jake

December 24, 2013 at 7:20 AM  
Blogger onur yeşildağ said...

really good thanks

January 31, 2014 at 4:02 AM  
Blogger onur yeşildağ said...

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January 31, 2014 at 4:04 AM  
Blogger Ricardo Castro said...

Dear Prof. Mitra,

We have the same such troublemakers here in Brazil. To bring a new insight based on extensive research like the ones you're performing seems to affect people in ways we cannot predict, even under the light of evidence people seems to try and discredit new ways of development and findings. I only meet your Hole in The Wall project recently, but its so great that I am daring to use it in my research, on a much smaller spectrum. Thanks for your great work and for sharing it so openly! My best regards from Brasil. Ricardoacastro@me.com

February 14, 2014 at 10:42 AM  
Blogger prosenjit ganguly said...

Miracles do happen. And therefore I shall continue to hope and believe that this 5 min film would eventually reach you sir.
Thanks for watching!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qhFueNOJyCU

April 9, 2014 at 10:37 PM  
Blogger prosenjit ganguly said...

Miracles do happen. And therefore I shall continue to hope and believe that this 5 min film would eventually reach you sir.
Thanks for watching!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qhFueNOJyCU

April 9, 2014 at 10:38 PM  
Blogger Spellbound said...

This article brought me to tears as well. Remote control over a school where children learn on their own. Where school is a comfortable safe-haven, rather than a prison.

April 14, 2014 at 10:05 PM  
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