Professor Pinkerton teaches his students the most important lesson of their lives.
“Good morning, Professor Pinkerton!” boomed a voice behind him.
“Good morning Clara,” he answered, conjuring up the mental image of the school janitor’s voice pitch fracturing glass.
“If I may, how was yesterday’s meeting? The one with the admin—“
He sighed. “Fairly good, Clara. Fairly good.”
“Now what does that mean, Professor?”
“It means that despite everything, we will keep our places. Alas, this also means we won’t have time to chit chat anymore in the morning. So, everybody to battlestations.”
Clara’s smile melted away. “Oh, I see Professor. Good day, then.”
“Good day to you.”
Pinkerton strutted through the school hallway, passing in review the placards at the top of each class’ door. He clenched his teeth. Once he could have been able to tell them apart blindfolded. Now he had to pay attention not to wind up in the ladies’ lavatory. The worst thing was he knew bloody well the reason for that inconvenience. Everything was changing. Everything had been changing since the schoolboard made the foolhardy decision to hire that new administrator.
Pinkerton kicked the air and snorted. That decision would have been fine with him, had the chap just concerned himself with the price of chalk, pens and toilet paper and not demanded to stick his nose in matters regarding the teaching itself. That was a teacher’s province and Pinkerton would have defended its borders to the very end, had the principal not rallied to the bureacraut’s defense, allowing the administrator to spend two hours haraguing the school’s staff.
“But Sirs and Gentleladies! What you teach is too theoretical, humanistical, abstrusal! Detached from the real world!,” he hissed in an attempt to mimic the administrator’s address, “School needs to prepare our students for getting a real job in the real world! You have to teach them how the modern world works! Not how it used to work back in ancient Greece or Rome!”
The teacher shook a fist in the air. “Oh, I wish I could show you how things worked in the ancient world, Mr. Administrator, by cutting your appendages and nailing them at the forum’s rostras!”
A couple of girls passed by, giggling. He cursed the man for forcing him to lose his most treasured aplomb.
Pinkerton stopped before a door and checked the class’s placard. “Third Section B, that is the spot.” His hand swooped on the handle. “Well, Sir. If I really have to teach them how the real modern world works, then rest assured. This is exactly what I am going to do!” he said, thrusting the door open.
A buzz of voices enveloped him as he approached the center of the class. “Silence! Silence, please! Miss Steiner? Please be so kind to do your duty as class representative and recall your friends to order.”
“Yes, Professor Pinkerton” answered the girl, turning on her heels to address the class. “Everybody! Silence! And get to your desks!”
Pinkerton gazed at the students flowing to their chairs. Just like bees after their queen he thought with a grin. Miss Vera Steiner had perfect grades, absolute command of everything he taught her, not to mention of the classmates she represented. There had never been a doubt in his heart that girl was the tip of a pilum eager to carve her way into the body of society.
“But times are changing—“ he soughed, as a chilling sensation crawled up his back. He wondered if the Roman senate had felt the same the day Julius Caesar paraded in the streets of Rome bedecked with the spoils of Gaul. “But he’s no Caesar. Oh, no. He’s just a pathetic Augustulus trying to force his management degree on—“
“Is something wrong, Professor Pinkerton?”
“I—nothing wrong, Miss Steiner, nothing wrong. Hic manebimus optime. We are fine here.” A leader should never show weakness he thought, trying to reassert himself. “Today’s lesson is—will be a bit different.”
“Wasn’t today the day of the oral exam, Professor?”
“Yes. Yes it is. Indeed it is.” Pinkerton put on his glasses and scanned the horizon of the bifocal lenses. The class shoaled under his gaze, leaving out the class representative and a kid at the bottom of the room bent facedown on his desk.
“Mr. Stukov. I understand it’s been a while since your last exam, am I right?”
The boy mouthed what seemed to Pinkerton a mixture between an answer and a plea for mercy.
“It’s settled, then. Today Mr. Stukov will be examined” said the teacher, as Stukov’s face acquired the tint of marble among a chorus of sniggers.
“Yet, as I said, this will not be a day like the others. Today I am going to teach you all something invaluable for your future lives. And that is why the entire class will be responsible for Mr. Stukov’s performance today.” Pinkerton felt a phalanx of eyes stabbing him from every direction.
“Professor Pinkerton, what is the meaning of this?” asked Mrs. Steiner.
“Exactly what I said, Miss Steiner.”
“With all due respect, we find this highly irregular—”
“These are the new school dispositions, Miss Steiner. Dura Lex, Sed Lex. Therefore, I would suggest you help Mr. Stukov to prepare to the best of your abilities.”
After half an hour of thorough examination of Mr. Stukov’s knowledge of the Latin canon, Professor Pinkerton felt satisfied. He was well aware of the fact that, left alone, the boy was not able to distinguish an Ode of Horace from a fart. Yet with the auxiliary aid of his classmates, and especially of Miss Steiner’s, he could not deny Mr. Stukov’s performance had been able to rise from the Hades of the lowest grade to the laurels of excellence.
“I cannot deny the fact that Mr. Stukov today has well earned an A+, with my compliments” said Pinkertoon, savouring the sight of the boy’s face lighting up.
“Well—done Stuk. But doesn’t that mean we all got an A+? Isn’t that right professor?” inquired the class representative.
Pinkerton bit his thumb’s fingernail. “Alas, Miss Steiner, I am afraid I cannot do that according to the new teaching dispositions. According to which I am to give you a collective F for your efforts.”
A roar assaulted his ears and Miss Steiner’s face turned to him, eyes flashing with the rage of a Gorgon. “But that is absurd! Outrageous! We’ve done all the work! This imbecille did not lift a finger! And now we get an F in his place? It’s a—fucking farce!”
Pinkerton rose up from the chair. “Miss Steiner, you are absolutely right to be outraged. Yet, Dura Lex Sed Lex. According to the new school’s teaching dispositions I was to impart you a lesson today. A lesson you will have to learn once you graduatd.”
“And what kind of lesson would that be, Professor?”
The teacher shrugged. “As I was saying, once you leave these hallowed halls you will enter the real world. You will get a job, probably in some company making soap, woodwork or whatever else our consumer society loves to consume. And no matter the amount of knowledge or wits you possess, you will no doubt end up taking orders day after day from a moronic boss who will be less intelligent, less skilled, less capable, less knowledgeable than any of you. And he, or she, or whatever else sexual identity this age of profligates is able to conceive, will receive all the credit for all your achievements and hard work, a higher paycheck, better benefits, a wider office and longer vacations. This is but a taste of what is bound to happen.”
“But we are at school, now, Professor Pinkerton. And this is not fair! This is gonna hurt our grades!”
“Life is not fair, Miss Steiner. Tiberius Gracchus understood that when the people of Rome threw his body in the Tiber river, even after all he’d done for them!” Pinkerton raised an arm in the direction of the door. “But you are right, this is school. This is not life, yet. And your parents pay handsomely for your tuition. So, according to the rules of this capitalist world, you are customers. And as customers you have the right to complain to the new school administrator who, I should add, is also responsible for the newest school’s teaching dispositions.”
Pinkerton sat again in the chair, leaning back and putting his feet on the desk as his pupils flooded out of the class led by Miss Steiner. Like a Centurion leading legionaries he thought with a smirk and a tinge of pride.
As the last of the pupils left the room, Pinkerton noticed only Mr. Stukov had been left behind. He was scratching his chin, gaze low, like he was pondering something; perhaps the prospect of a future of power as a company’s CEO.
Cries of protest reverberated through the hallway, and Pinkerton swore he could hear the administrator’s voice trying to calm the horde of students clamoring for his head.
“Vox Populi, Vox Dei” said Pinkerton, bursting into laughter.