A Sense of History

Title: A Sense of History
Time Period: July 17, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Duncan visits Caera at the schoolhouse, and ends up learning more than he expected to.

Caera only has two days a week to reach these children. Many of their parents do not find education useful. She does not have the time to teach them times tables, or complex math, or the vast details of history. She does not have the time. And there are a great many things - like crop rotation, for example, that they should be taught merely to ensure it is remembered, for the survival of them and future generations. So instead, her strategy is to interest and inspire, while teaching what basics she can. If students want to learn more, and their parents are willing; she can offer tutoring services later. She merely does what she expects she can fit into two days.

Today she has been teaching mathematics, on a small, scaveneged chalkboard that she got from who-knows-where. A row of multiplication tables is on the chalkboard, as well as a single physics equation 'F = M * A'. There is also a very small picture of the solar system. For every one bit of math she teaches she tries to teach two or three interesting things. Math is useless unless one sees the value of it. And she doesn't want to bore them, above all else.

She walks back and forth in front of the chalkboard. "And so students, from the humble principle of multiplication, one can multiply not just numbers for use in planning out farming or commerce, but concepts, such as this equation. And it is this equation which governs the revolution of our planets, their rotation about the sun, and the movement of the stars themselves. Mathematics it the language upon which reality is writ. Our ancestors invented it to describe all the wonderous and beautiful things they saw, across the earth and among the stars." She goes silent, and looks at the class. "Any questions?"

A moderately young boy asks a question about the other planets in the solar system, and she answers it. There are no further questions.

"That is all class. The next class is in a week. We will be discussing the science of agriculture, and ecology in general. The day after we will discuss history. You are dismissed."

The students begin filing out.

That line bursts apart when it passes out from under the schoolhouse door, children scattering in what looks like willy nilly but are in fact well-worn lines, whorls and eddies and intention and association. Friends and family, hurrying home. Rivals parting from rivals. Puppy love playing fort-da with young forms. But today there is additional interference - a wide berth that forms before the feet of Duncan Rowntree. A couple of the young folk stare, others assiduously avoid anything of the sort, while still others vacillate between. Most beat a hasty retreat. Where Duncan is, trouble tends to be.

When the last of them have trickled away, Duncan makes his way into the schoolhouse, scrutinizing the interior. This is his first such visit - his children wouldn't be taught alongside the offspring of commoners. The strangeness of this fact strikes him, if softly. The air in here is different - more still. But not silent.

Caera puts her scavenged piece of chalk - actual chalk, not pre-war 'chalk' aside, and using a rag, begins cleaning off the chalk-board as the students leave. Shortly thereafter, however, an adult enters her Schoolhouse. It is not, of course, technically hers, but…well, a teacher will get territorial about the room they teach in. She puts her rag down and turns to face the visitor, scrutinizing him.

"Mr. Rowentree." she says, good natured but formally. She has no interest in politics or political games, and no personal political ambition. Of course, sometimes those things tend to find you…escpecially where children are involved. "I don't believe I've had the honor of your visit here." she notes. "How can I help you?"

Caera's good nature finds a dim mirror in Duncan, who reflects it sincerely if not brightly. He would deny an interest in politics himself - he is a practical man of practical means, who is interested in the good of his community. Someone as learned as Caera might note that 'the good of the community' is often a political question - at this, Duncan would smile a smile of a different sort.

"An oversight," Duncan says, and offers Caera a small bow, "and the honor is mine. Lady Ross must think very highly of you, to place you in sole command of this - the flagship of her many good works." He moves further into the space, assessing it with cool blue eyes, which eventually find their way back to the woman herself. "I hesitate to reveal my ignorance before a learned woman - but I must admit, at the very least, that I do not know your name.

"Enlighten me?"

"Caera, Mr. Rowentree." she replies politely. "And I must confess that I am not privvy to the internal thoughts or plans of the Lady Ross. There are others who utilize this building on occasion, though I rarely see them. I teach here for two days, and then keep a fairly busy tutoring schedule. I am, of course, honored by the trust she has placed in me. The children are always the future, and the greatest investment of any community."

Duncan nods. "An admirable sentiment," he says, "and one I share, along with Lady Ross-" he stops himself short, "but you are right to show restraint in guessing at the thoughts and motives of those above our heads. She is a lofty lady. My interests are, regrettably, more mundane. I mean only to ask- just what sort of future are you building, and with what sort of bricks?"

Caera wilts for a moment. That is not a good question. Thats a dangerous question. Not because she's afraid of it, but because when you are dealing with people's children, they all have very different ideas, and all with very strong opinions.

"The prime goal is to ensure that everyone, at least, has a chance to read and better themselves." Caera replies. "The future of Dornie is to be built out of the bricks of its children. If they have the chance to learn what they need to learn more, to innovate, to contribute to their families and the community, to appreciate the past and the world around them, then I will have done my job. Basic reading and writing can contribute to that. Not all parents see the value in reading, or math, or even history; but if the children are given the chance to learn the basics, at least the community will have given them the chance to contribute to the community in the way your family, and the family of Lady Ross, have."

Duncan receives Caera's words with patience and interest, letting a spell of quiet play out after she speaks before, at length, fielding his concern. "That is all very well, but there many sorts of bricks, some which crumble quickly, others which can endure. The composition and contents of a child's mind, surely, can vary depending on what ideas are inside of it, and books have many ideas, some good and some not so good- history, too, is a matter of the telling. So you can see, I trust, that I wonder at just what history is being taught, and just what children are reading. Is this something you decide, or Lady Ross?"

"I do discuss lesson plans with Lady Ross, depending upon her free time and interest." Caera replies. "But if I could not be trusted to teach the children, I would not be here." She moves over to one of the wooden chairs and sits down. This may be a long conversation. "I am not focusing on the history of this town, if that is what you are asking." Caera replies. "When I discuss history, I try to give a sense of the history of the old world, before the dark ages. They did many great things, which your family and the family of Lady Ross are attempting to do again, with more success then any other I have seen. But they have also made many mistakes, some of which are hard for us to imagine, and some of which lead to the dark ages. Denying magic and those who live beyond the walls, for instance. Their power was great, vast. They mastered the skies and the seas. They could split entire cities and continents with their scientific knowledge. But none of it did them any good in the end, because they ignored what you yourself spend all day protecting us from." She tends to have extremes; either shy, or authoritative and teaching. Now, she speaks as a teacher.

"If you have suggestions, I am more then welcome to hear them. But I'm not trying to push a particular political agenda. I'm not even trying to favor a clan, not even my patrons. I don't really discuss issues of town politics, or what I believe could be related to it. I'm merely trying to give them some semblance of the education that you yourself have received, and what the children and adults of the old world received."

“You sense some purpose to my asking,” Duncan observes, “perhaps it was a mistake to start off by speaking of clans. These are not the children of Ross or Rowntree, but of Dornie. It is Dornie’s welfare that concerns me, the strength of its walls and foundations. Indeed,” he dips his head, appreciative of her crediting him, “the defense of our home may be armed by my clan, but the power that drives the presses comes from the dam, and there would not be labor enough for either without the common people, whom you teach.

“I would wish for this school to teach nothing political. Politics brew dissention when peace rules- what is the purpose of that? My concern is for practical knowledge- I ask, you sometimes take note of students of particular promise? Ones with specific talents that you may not have the time to hone as fine as you might?”

Caera nods her head. "Yes. Practical knowledge is always a concern. I hear that quite often, actually. Reading is never as popular as the geology of wells or of rare minerals, or of making fertelizer without using guano or of crop rotation." she says. "I do try to take note of particular gifted children. I will even tutor such a student if he or she is interested and the parents are willing. Often, they are not. Some peasant parents welcome the teaching, and this is a great comfort to me. Others resent it and do not see the point. It is the most frustrating thing in the world to see a child gifted beyond his years, whom can learn more then you ever could, whose parents do not believe reading or writing has value, who is taught each night he goes home that he was born a farmer or a stablehand or a sailor's son, and will die as such."

“When you find these children, children of great promise, children with intractable parents who would squander their gifts-” Duncan taps his chest, “inform me. Narrowness and blind fealty to tradition is next door to superstition. And I have no use for superstition. Reverence should never be married to ignorance.

“Understand, Caera- I have the highest esteem for the achievements of the old world. And I know the Emergence was a devious trick, a stab in the back- it must have been. The weapons of the old world still serve us. Its knowledge can serve us as well.”

Caera nods her head. She's actually mildly impressed. "Thank you." she says. "And I agree on all counts. I know a great deal about the Emergence." There are many billions dead from that day, after all. "Think of all you have done to repel those same forces. You have accomplished so much with so little. Think of the intense struggle to keep this community alive against that which lurks within even a single fortnight of this town." She pauses for a moment.

"Now imagine the gleaming cities of steel. The endless buildings of new brick and concrete, as far as the eye could see, glowing with electricity - considered slums by their residents. The moving cars, the airplanes which could carry you across the world in hours. Submarines with missiles that could shatter entire continents with the fires that burn within the hearts of stars." She tilts her head. "And yet, those same people died, to the forces you yourself repel and defeat. Imagine what they could have done with your knowledge. Or you with theirs."

And now Duncan is impressed - they are taking turns. He’s known to give exultant speeches about the old world himself, when he’s in the proper temper. Even then, even speaking with the overweaning attitude of a military man standing upon some great prospect, he cannot muster the authority or imagery Caera has just evoked within this modest space of learning. The burning hearts of stars and the cracking of continents catch him in brief, induced revery.

He speaks only once he’s free of it. Back in the schoolhouse, with Caera.

“I feel as if I ought take lessons from you, in rhetoric if nothing else.”

Caera blushes slightly…but only slightly. She's a teacher now. The reaction would be stronger in other situations. "Thank you, Mr. Rowntree." she replies. "I merely have studied more then most, thus my confidence in the value of education."

"Considering that one may be taught anything, I cannot speak unequivocally of the value of all education," Duncan avers, "but I can say I have confidence in the education you offer. I had… expectations upon this visit. None of them have been met. My new ones are exceeded before I can form them." He makes another bow. "You have my ear and eye, Caera. If you have need of something, know I will receive you. Until then-" he rises from his bow, "-we both have our duties to Dornie."

Caera curtsies in turn, and bows her head slightly. "Thank you, milord." she replies. "I will not keep you from your duties then, and will return to cleaning up after my students. Best of the day to you."