Thursday, February 17, 2011

Pure Grade

This is the world as I've always known it. There are very few secrets people can hide. I don't mean in the sense that you might know, where petty things or personal histories can be hidden. I mean that people can't falsely represent themselves. They're forced to be honest about who they are and what they're capable of doing. This is achieved by the Placard. The Placard is something everyone has to wear, sort of like a name badge. It's not too big, but it's big enough so that any piece of information someone who's talking with that person needs to know, automatically transmits exactly what they need to know, all the little details that would previously have been left unsaid, hidden away in that person's thoughts, is made plain. That little change has made a world of difference.

I'm only thirteen years old, but even I know how different things are. I know about your world because I've read about it in books, in imaginative (some would "speculative") literature. I sometimes wonder what it would be like, but I wonder about a lot of things. I'm what you'd call "thoughtful," introspective. I listen more than I talk. My Placard is usually blank. I have no use for guile, and so I guess that's why I'm drawn to your world, what you might think of mine. Lying, even when people can't get away with it, is something I hate, because people still try it anyway.

In school, you can only imagine the difference. Grades are different here, far different. Education itself is so different, and I guess I benefit inordinately in that regard, compared to what you might have experienced. The teachers can't fool the students, and the students can't fool the teachers. When a teacher wants to call on one of us, whatever response they get, they know exactly why that student got the question right, or why they got it wrong. (It's far better than a lie detector, and is invaluable in the courts, or so I'm told.) Parents tend to have more empathy, but classmates don't. They only get mad at the truth. I guess I'd get beat up or picked on wherever I was, so I can't really complain about that. Teachers have more sympathy for students when they know exactly how they learn, and can't pretend otherwise. Grading is based purely on a student's best efforts. I kind of like that.

There really isn't a concept of strangers here. Since the truth of any action is made plain pretty quickly, you know exactly who to trust right away. The Placard is always reliable. Friends are a little easier to come by, but it's not as if social activity is affected that much. People still behave much they always will, as I said. It's just, they can't lie as easily. "The truth will out;" that's a phrase I read somewhere, and it might as well be the motto of the Placards. I don't know who invented them, and I have no idea how long they've been around. They're a fact of life, like any invention. Who invented the name badge, anyway? They're too purely functional to matter that much to history. They're like plastic cups. They're like a magic marker. They're just another thing we wear.

How does it feel to allow people to bullshit (I'm sorry, I know I'm not supposed to swear, but sometimes I can't help myself, and if you could read my Placard, you would know I learned the habit much the way you would have, so there's nothing much to hide there), to misrepresent themselves? In the books, I know people in your world gain positions of authority that way all the time. It's practically the only way they can. That and an over-reliance on personality. It doesn't seem to matter if someone can actually do something. With a Placard, you would always know right away. The interview process would be easy, if a little time-consuming. You would just need to ask questions and read the Placard's comments. You would know instantly if you can trust a person to perform the tasks that would be required of them. I'm just a kid, but even I know that would probably be useful.

Right now, I'm just reading, and that's my whole world, even outside of the Placards. The world fascinates me, in all of its possibilities, both real and imagined. Maybe that's all I should really care about. That's how I should evaluate the world, or maybe just myself.

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