Looking to identify a sci-fi short story I read in high school.

The story was about a teacher, the last in the country (I think), who was being studied by an AI/government group to learn how to get robots to replace teachers in classrooms. Cameras are placed in all the corners of his classroom to record him and, at one point, thousands of nanobots are placed under his skin to study his actions at all hours of the day. I believe it ends with him homeless, on a park bench talking to a young boy, and he still has the nanobots under his skin.

I have been looking for this story for a few years now, and I haven't found a trace of it on Google or with anyone I know. Google usually points me back to The Fun They Had by Isaac Asimov but that doesn't seem like the same story. I read it in 2015. I don't think it was more than maybe eight pages.

1 Answer 1


Nor a Lender Be by James Van Pelt. It was published in 1999 so it's a lot older than 2015, but the story matches your description perfectly.

The teacher is William. I don't think we ever learn his surname. A company called Reinhart Group runs all schools and they consider William an ideal teacher so they inject him with nanotech as you describe:

"Your environment, to be exact," said Victoria. "We need to monitor you, so we've designed some very special nanotech to do the job. You'll need to be injected, of course, and it will be a few days before we have everything adjusted, but by this time next week, we will be getting a complete picture of the students and the classroom as you experience them. Not just visuals, but touch, smell, taste–all of it. All the subtle cues you use to teach from and how you respond to them."

Behind her, one of the technicians was preparing a hypodermic. She drew what looked to be a couple of cc's from a small bottle of cloudy, white liquid.

Victoria said, "It's really no different from what the doctor might give you to clear cholesterol from your system, or to hunt down cancer cells. Only these will attach along your nerve pathways. Totally painless, naturally. You won't even know they're there, but they'll broadcast to the transceivers while the computers build the model of your behavior. In three months, we'll have everything we need."

It gets darker after this. Reinhart Group copyright William's teaching style then sue him to stop him ever teaching again. It ends with him being arrested for (illegally) teaching children in a playground. His nanotech is removed, but he still imgines he can feel it:

The script of what is said to him at the police station seems as familiar to William as any play. He knows his part within it. He pulls his overcoat close to him as they lead him to his cell. Modern as the prison is, with its soft white walls and acoustic ceiling, it makes him cold, and when he's cold, the ghostly writhing of long-gone nanotech bothers him most.

In the police cell he is paired with a young man who killed his uncle because his uncle killed his father, And William starts teaching him Hamlet.

"My lawyer says that he can get me off, though. He says I'm crazy. See, I told him that my dad's ghost told me what to do."

"Did he?" William's voice cracks, and the walls of the cell begin to vanish. Everything focuses on the young man sitting with his knees up, hiding behind his hair.

"But you know what's really crazy?" The man leans forward and whispers, "I did talk to my dad's ghost."

The man falls back against the wall. "Now that's a story you don't hear every day," he says. "That's one for the books."

William rubs his hand across his chest as if straightening a tie. He looks around him. The cell doesn't seem that small anymore. He pictures some posters on the wall, maybe the Globe Theater. Perhaps a playbill or two. "That is an interesting story," he says. "Maybe I can tell one too. It might mean something to you. What do you think?"

The young man shakes the hair out of his eyes. They are bright blue and young, very young. They look like a student's eyes.

"Sure," he says. "I have plenty of time."

"Have you ever heard," says William, "neither a borrower nor a lender be? This is the story that it came from, and it starts with three guys talking about the ghost of a dead king. The king's name is Hamlet, and it's about his son of the same name."

They talk all night, and when Isaac comes in the morning to bail him out, William refuses to go.

  • 2
    Can I just add my nitpick to about this story? Copyright is the wrong legal process. To prevent William from teaching, they would need a non compete agreement (in a state that allowed non compete agreements for non executives). Far too many people have a very expansive view of copyright, much beyond what copyright actually does.
    – Walter
    Feb 23 at 18:38

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