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I read this somewhere in the 1990s, but it was probably older. I vaguely remember it as being two stories in sequence in an anthology. One was a story involving an Earth administrator comparing Earth curriculum to Mars curriculum and the second was just a class listing for Martian curriculum.

In the first story, what sticks out in my head was the Earth administrator proudly claiming some high value of WPM for reading for his students and the Martian admitting that their rate was lower, and then added a comment along the lines of that the Martian students, when reading at the rate attained at Earth, could not recall every word of the book and recite them back verbatim. In the curriculum listing, I remember that the physical education classes included Tightrope Walking and Advanced Tightrope Walking. In short, the implication was that Mars held its children, and therefore its citizens, to much higher standards, at the cost of sacrificing actual childhood. The children never played, just studied and drilled.

In retrospect, it might not have been Mars... I know one side was Earth and the other was a planet in the Solar System, and Mars sounds about right, but so does Venus. Either way, it was the casual arrogance of the extra-terrestrial society and the blustering attempts of the Earth administrator that stuck out for me.

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I read this somewhere in the 1990s, but it was probably older. I vaguely remember it as being two stories in sequence in an anthology.

I believe you're thinking of "Primary Education of the Camiroi" (first published in Galaxy Magazine, December 1966, available at the Internet Archive) and maybe also "Polity and Custom of the Camiroi" (first published in Galaxy Magazine, June 1967, also at the Internet Archive), both by the great R. A. Lafferty (ISFDB, Wikipedia, Great Science-Fiction & Fantasy Works,The Ants of God Are Queer Fish). Both stories appear in the 1970 Lafferty collection Nine Hundred Grandmothers and also in the 1982 anthology Space Mail, Volume II edited by Isaac Asimov, Martin Harry Greenberg, and Charles G. Waugh.

One was a story involving an Earth administrator comparing Earth curriculum to Mars curriculum and the second was just a class listing for Martian curriculum.

The planet is Camiroi, not Mars. Actually, all of your description sounds like the first story, "Primary Education of the Camiroi". (The other story is about law and government.) In my copy, the school curriculum takes up 4 of the 14 pages of the story. It starts at age five:

FIRST YEAR COURSE:
Playing one wind instrument.
Simple drawing of objects and numbers.
Singing. (This is important. Many Earth people sing who cannot sing. This early instruction of the Camiroi prevents that occurrence.)
Simple arithmetic, hand and machine.
First acrobatics.
First riddles and logic.
Mnemonic religion.
First dancing.
Walking the low wire.
Simple electric circuits.
Raising ants. (Eoempts, not Earth ants).

[. . .]

TENTH YEAR COURSE:
History construction, active.
Manufacture of ultra-light-barrier vehicles.
Panphilosophical clarifications.
Construction of viable planets.
Consolidation of simple sanctity status.
Charismatic humor and pentacosmic logic.
Hypogyroscopic economy.
Penentaglossia. (The perfection of the fifty languages that every educated Camiroi must know including six Earthian languages. Of course the child will already have colloquial mastery of most of these, but he will not yet have them in their full depth.)
Construction of complex societies.
World government. (A course of the same name is sometimes given in Earthian schools, but the course is not of the same content. In this course the Camiroi student will govern a world, though not one of the first aspect worlds, for a period of three or four months.)
Tenth form thesis.

In the first story, what sticks out in my head was the Earth administrator proudly claiming some high value of WPM for reading for his students and the Martian admitting that their rate was lower, and then added a comment along the lines of that the Martian students, when reading at the rate attained at Earth, could not recall every word of the book and recite them back verbatim.

"How rapidly do you read?" Miss Hanks asked a young girl.

"One hundred and twenty words a minute," the girl said.

"On Earth some of the girl students your age have learned to read at the rate of five hundred words a minute," Miss Hanks said proudly.

"When I began disciplined reading, I was reading at the rate of four thousand words a minute," the girl said. "They had quite a time correcting me of it. I had to take remedial reading, and my parents were ashamed of me. Now I've learned to read almost slow enough."

"I don't understand," said Miss Hanks.

[. . .]

"What is this business about slow reading?" Miss Hanks asked. "I don't understand it at all."

"Only the other day there was a child in the third grade who persisted in rapid reading," Philoxenus said. "He was given an object lesson. He was given a book of medium difficulty, and he read it rapidly. Then he had to put the book away and repeat what he had read. Do you know that in the first thirty pages he missed four words? Midway in the book there was a whole statement which he had understood wrongly, and there were hundreds of pages that he got word-perfect only with difficulty. If he was so unsure on material that he had just read, think how imperfectly he would have recalled it forty years later."

"You mean that the Camiroi children learn to recall everything that they read?"

"The Camiroi children and adults will recall for life every detail they have ever seen, read or heard. We on Camiroi are only a little more intelligent than you on Earth. We cannot afford to waste time in forgetting or reviewing or in pursuing anything of a shallowness that lends itself to scanning."

In short, the implication was that Mars held its children, and therefore its citizens, to much higher standards, at the cost of sacrificing actual childhood. The children never played, just studied and drilled.

Oh, I don't know. Maybe, for the Camiroi children, some of the items on the curriculum (wire walking? dancing? raising ants? ruling a world?) are more fun than, er, whatever it is Earth kids play—tag? crazy eights? video games?

Lafferty's Camiroi series continues with his 1982 novel Aurelia (briefly reviewed here) about a Camiroi girl taking her course in "World Government" by governing a world very much like our Earth. I recommend it, but then I recommend everything by Lafferty starting with his 200-odd (and odd) short stories.

  • 2
    In another 3 minutes, I can accept it. Thank you. – FuzzyBoots Dec 5 '14 at 14:22
  • I had found a copy of the story through Google books and it was definitely right. :) Your quotes just clarify the rightness. Thank you. Now I'm just left to wonder which of those anthologies I read it from... – FuzzyBoots Dec 5 '14 at 19:18
  • @user14111 - I knew you'd get this. I would have staked a shiny pound coin on it. – Valorum Dec 6 '14 at 2:35

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