“Take your time, because your life literally depends upon it,” the test-giver warned them in his clear announcer’s voice.
In contrast, he also cautioned, “Make sure to answer all of the questions in the allotted time, or you’ll be automatically disqualified.“
Three men, and three women, sat in front of a row of desks with computers on them. They all pecked away on their keyboards intently.
Overhead cameras recorded the test, and streamed it live throughout the country.
Viewers at home, or on their mobile devices, listened to a host describe the test’s contents, and give a brief bio on each test-taker. They were rule-breakers. Every Friday, the prison system sent six convicted rule-breakers to the “school room” where the test was conducted.
It didn’t matter if you were a murderer or someone who was caught shop-lifting. If you broke a rule this is where you went in 2053 America. You had to take the test, and if you failed, viewers voted on how you would be killed.
The choices were narrowed down to three categories: The Easy Death – subject shot in the head. A Rough Death – subject beaten to death (several scenarios), and The Really Horrible Death – subject tortured for a day before getting executed by beheading.
The good news for those being tested was that if they passed the test, they were set free. The bad news. No ones ever passed it.
Entertainment executives were delighted with the arrangement. The prison system was never crowded. Each state had one central prison.
Corporations ruled America and reaped profit from anything and everything – including from the struggling mass of citizens who no longer were allowed to vote, but who provided some excellent entertainment on Friday night TV.
Corporate heads ran the government. Billionaires filled all the positions available, including the High CEO’s Cabinet. Old terms, like president, were replaced with a High CEO who demanded everyone kiss his ring. It was a rule.
The test also taught viewers to never break a rule. Among the many rules – posted daily at noon on websites and TVs – was the rule of never saying anything bad about the government or the High CEO.
The government provided the material for the tests from America’s long history. It should be noted that teaching history in classrooms ceased during the reign of Donald Trump (2016 – 2020).
A new generation of Americans grew up with no idea about their history, or the country’s history. Older Americans, the ones who got history classes in public schools, were dying off and had shaky memories of the old days.
One day a man was going through the rubble where a library use to stand. He was looking for anything that might be salvageable. The great fire of 2024 had destroyed this once house of learning.
The man, whose name was Adam, stumbled across a charred trap door in the ruins. He took his homemade hatchet from his rope belt and hacked away at it. It took an hour of steady hacking before he was finally able to make an opening.
With the aide of his flashlight, Adam went down a flight of stairs and came into a vast room lined with shelves of books. The shelves extended as far as he could see. He was stunned with his find. An answer to his dreams.
Adam always suspected the government’s version of American history was false.
People called Adam a skeptic when he tried to share his views. Others warned him to watch what he was saying outloud. He learned not to talk about them at all.
Now, surrounding him was a real library. He made the library his home for five years, before the police arrested him for not bowing before the state governor when he came to town one day.
It didn’t take long for Adam to have to take the test. It was a bigger than usual audience that Friday night because word got out that Adam dared to defy a government official! That didn’t happen every day.
The minutes passed by as the six convicts concentrated on the questions. When the time was up all eyes went to the top of the computers in front of each person. A red light came on the first computer, and the woman behind it hung her head in dread.
Another red light. And another. When it came to the last computer the light turned…GREEN! Adam shouted with joy. The announcer turned pale and looked around for someone to help him. He didn’t know what to do.
It was a first. The announcer was told it was impossible for anyone to get it all of the questions right. Only the government knew the answers, and had programmed them into the six computers that were guarded 24-hours a day.
Adam was set free. The first think he did was start an underground school teaching real history. He knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Fake news had dominated for decades. He quickly recorded historical chapters and made the recordings available to anyone who wanted to listen.
Then he gathered together a dozen men and women, and made them his students. Their mission was clear, bring truth back to America.
As It Stands, I’ve often heard the phrase “the dumbing down of America.” I find that to be a very scary thought, and the inspiration for this futuristic cautionary tale.