The Complete Stories (Page 84)
"And what does that signify?"
"It was my friend’s lifelong ambition to qualify for Novia. He already knew the Henslers. He had to know the Beemans to qualify and he knew that. To learn about the Beemans would have taken just a few more facts, a bit ~more data, a small amount of practice perhaps. With a life’s ambition nding the scale, he might have managed this-"
"And where would he have obtained a tape for the additional facts and
data? Or has Education become a private matter for home study here on Earth?"
There was dutiful laughter from the faces in the background.
George said, "That’s why he didn’t learn, Honorable. He thought he needed a tape. He wouldn’t even try without one, no matter what the prize. He refused to try without a tape."
"Refused, eh? Probably the type of fellow who would refuse to fly without a skimmer." More laughter and the Novian thawed into a smile and said, "The fellow is amusing. Go on. I’ll give you another few moments."
George said tensely, "Don’t think this is a joke. Tapes are actually bad. They teach too much; they’re too painless. A man who learns that way doesn’t know how to learn any other way. He’s frozen into whatever position he’s been taped. Now if a person weren’t given tapes but were forced to learn by hand, so to speak, from the start; why, then he’d get the habit of learning, and continue to learn. Isn’t that reasonable? Once he has the habit well developed he can be given just a small amount of tape-knowledge, perhaps, to fill in gaps or fix details. Then he can make further progress on his own. You can make Beeman Metallurgists out of your own Hensler Metallurgists in that way and not have to come to Earth for new models."
The Novian nodded and sipped at his drink. "And where does everyone get knowledge without tapes? From interstellar vacuum?"
"From books. By studying the instruments themselves. By thinking."
"Books? How does one understand books without Education?"
Books are in words. Words can be understood for the most part. Specialized words can be explained by the technicians you already have."
"What about reading? Will you allow reading tapes?"
"Reading tapes are all right, I suppose, but there’s no reason you can’t learn to read the old way, too. At least in part."
The Novian said, "So that you can develop good habits from the start?"
"Yes, yes," George said gleefully. The man was beginning to understand.
"And what about mathematics?"
"That’s the easiest of all, sir-Honorable. Mathematics is different from other technical subjects. It starts with certain simple principles and proceeds by steps. You can start with nothing and leam. It’s practically designed for that. Then, once you know the proper types of mathematics, other technical books become quite understandable. Especially if you start with easy ones."
"Are there easy books?"
"Definitely. Even if there weren’t, the technicians you now have can try to write easy books. Some of them might be able to put some of their knowledge into words and symbols."
"Good Lord," said the Novian to the men clustered about him. "The young devil has an answer for everything."
"I have. I have," shouted George. "Ask me."
"Have you tried learning from books yourself? Or is this just theory with you?"
George turned to look quickly at Ingenescu, but the Historian was passive. There was no sign of anything but gentle interest in his face.
George said, "I have."
"And do you find it works?"
"Yes, Honorable," said George eagerly. "Take me with you to Novia. I can set up a program and direct-"
"Wait, I have a few more questions. How long would it take, do you suppose, for you to become a Metallurgist capable of handling a Beeman machine, supposing you started from nothing and did not use Educational tapes?"
George hesitated. "Well-years, perhaps."
"Two years? Five? Ten?"
"I can’t say, Honorable."
"Well, there’s a vital question to which you have no answer, have you? Shall we say five years? Does that sound reasonable to you?"
"I suppose so.”
"All right. We have a technician studying metallurgy according to this method of yours for five years. He’s no good to us during that time, you’ll admit, but he must be fed and housed and paid for all that time."
"Let me finish. Then when he’s done and can use the Beeman, five years have passed. Don’t you suppose we’ll have modified Beemans then which he won’t be able to use?"
"But by then he’ll be expert on learning. He could learn the new details necessary in a matter of days."
"So you say. And suppose this friend of yours, for instance, had studied up on Beemans on his own and managed to learn it; would he be as expert in its use as a competitor who had learned it off the tapes?"
"Maybe not-" began George.
"Ah," said the Novian.
"Wait, let me finish. Even if he doesn’t know something as well, it’s the ability to learn further that’s important. He may be able to think up things, new things that no tape-Educated man would. You’ll have a reservoir of onginal thinkers-"
"In your studying," said the Novian, "have you thought up any new things?"
"No, but I’m just one man and I haven’t studied long-"
"Yes. -Well, ladies, gentlemen, have we been sufficiently amused?"
"Wait," cried George, in sudden panic. "I want to arrange a personal interview. There are things I can’t explain over the visiphone. There are details-"