In the morning fog, a battered 1985 Toyota Corolla pulled up to the red zone outside of the high school and disgorged a teenage boy wearing jeans, sneakers and a dark blue fleece jacket. “Have a good day, Jeremy!” rang out as he quickly slammed the door behind him. The car cut diagonally through the mostly empty student parking lot and chugged up the long entrance back out to the main road. A long row of skateboarders surfed down the school driveway, zig zagging back and forth between bicyclists and the occasional scooter.
Jeremy Anton jogged to the top of the steps and looked around as he unzipped his jacket and stuffed it in his backpack. His mother insisted he bring layers of clothes, like he would catch a cold just because he was thin. His brown hair was cut Beatles style, and he sported a long-sleeve t-shirt with the slogan “Blood is the New Black.” He didn’t see his cousin Steve yet, but at least he didn’t see any other kids looking to hassle him. High school was not working out as he had hoped. He’d been excited about the possibilities of girls, full science labs with modern equipment, and hanging with Steve. Instead, he was mocked for his years of homeschooling, and dubbed “Doogie” and “Homeboy” by the school bullies. Tired of being an oddball, he now just tried to fly under the radar as best he could
As Jeremy rummaged in his bag for a graphic novel to read while waiting, Steve rode up with a pop-tart sticking out of his mouth. His shoulders were unusually broad for his otherwise average sized body, so his shadow looked a bit like a 1930’s circus poster featured a trained bear. He chained up the mountain bike and joined Jeremy, offering him the uneaten portion of the pastry.
“No thanks, I don’t want your sloppy seconds,” said Jeremy.
“You wish,” replied Steve. “Hey, do we have homeroom today? Shit, I forgot something to read.”
“You can borrow something of mine,” offered Jeremy.
“Harry Potter? Star Trek? A Klingon dictionary?” said Steve.
“No, something else,” said Jeremy as he surreptitiously pulled a women’s magazine from his binder and ripped out some pages. “Find out how to purify your pores and drive your man crazy in bed.”
Steve grabbed the pages and quickly flipped through them. “What the hell? This is an ad for a bra with “extra coverage” so the nipples don’t ever show through? That’s just wrong, just plain wrong.” The bell rang, interrupting his tirade, so he stuffed the papers into his pocket and said “See you at lunch” as he and Jeremy went in opposite directions.
Will Ingersoll stood at the front of his Social Studies classroom, wearing his customary tie and blazer. True, the corduroy blazer with leather elbow patches was years out of date, and his loafers were long past their prime, but he still felt it was important to instill respect for authority. Not that it succeeded, he thought as he watched the students saunter in, some clutching their waistbands with one hand to keep their baggy pants from falling down. Ingersoll was known to give detention to any student with visible underwear. The girls were just as guilty as the boys, although their style was more “Fashions by Roman Polanski” with knee high socks and short plaid skirts. And this isn’t even a Catholic school, he thought as he shook his head and put down his coffee. He girded for another day of battle as he walked to the front of the room.
“I trust you’ve all read the chapter “Technology and Society” as I assigned” he began to the slouching student body. “We’re going to engage in some lively debate on the pros and cons of technology.” He pointed to a slender girl with a cheerleading sweater. “Candace. Name one technological advance that has been of benefit to humanity.”
“DNA” replied Candace quickly. Though she had a small scar on her face from a childhood kitchen accident, nobody noticed it due to her hourglass figure, honey blond hair, and air of entitlement that came with being nominated for homecoming court every single year.
“DNA is a technological advance? I thought we were all born with it,” said Mr. Ingersoll, frowning.
“No, I mean, scientific advances in understanding DNA helps the police locating criminals. Also, it helps identify bodies at tragedies like airline crashes, where the bodies are , like, mangled beyond recognition and stuff.” Candace replied. She beamed as she realized her hours of watching Lifetime movies were finally paying off.
“Good, good” affirmed Mr. Ingersoll, and glanced around the room. “Who can tell me a con about DNA technology?”
Sherman Beltran’s hand shot up. “The man. The police or the government can stockpile information about people by taking their DNA.” He adjusted his small wire-rimmed glasses and shrunk down a bit in his chair, remembering too late he didn’t want to draw attention to himself.
“And how does the government take someone’s DNA?”
“Public health clinics. From suspects in crimes. I think they make you give samples when you’re in the army.” Sherman was just getting started. “Really, they can take it in a lot of ways, and then keep a big databank of the information. And you know when you think you’re getting flu shot? They’re really taking samples from a micro hook on the end of the syringe.”
“Conspiracy alert!” boomed a voice from the back of the room.
Ingersoll didn’t rise to the bait. “Sherman, that really has more to do with government’s actions, not technology itself.”
“But it’s because of the technology that they can get all of this information about us” Sherman argued. “They couldn’t have done that before computers.”
“Fair enough” conceded Mr. Ingersoll. He pointed to Vince Tran. “I need another benefit.”
“Mmm, facial recognition technology. Used for catching criminals and terrorists” Vince offered. “I don’t know if that’s the same thing they use to artificially age somebody’s picture, but that helps identify kids who were abducted and stuff.”
“Good, good” said Mr. Ingersoll. He directed his question to the entire room. “And the downside of this technology?” Vapid stares and silence greeted him. He wondered if he had any Xanax left in the hiding spot in the stapler. “That may make a good essay topic. How about something closer to home?” He nodded at Brad McCabe, an oversized sophomore with buzz-cut red hair. “Tell me the pluses and minuses of a technology that has changed your life.”
“The internet, I guess” said Brad. “I can email my friends and enter gaming tournaments online. But my Dad got some spyware so he can see everything I’m doing and for how long. It’s so Big Brother. It’s a total invasion of privacy.” He was gratified to hear his fellow students chime in with support.
“You’re such whiners” responded Mr. Ingersoll, warming up to one of his favorite topics. “When I was a kid, I had to actually go outside the house to play games with friends. Imagine that!” he said as he swept his arms out expansively.
Brad raised his hand. “Did you have to walk 5 miles in the snow to go to school, too?” The class snickered with youthful superiority.
“As a matter of fact, I did walk to school. I wasn’t chauffeured everywhere like kids today” Mr. Ingersoll responded primly.
“Yeah, but you could drive at age 16 instead of 20 like us” countered Brad.
Mr. Ingersoll waved him off. “Let’s get back on topic. How about GPS systems in cars?” He gestured to one of the McFarlane girls. Kathy? Cindy? Joyce? He couldn’t remember which one was the oldest but it seemed like he always had one of them in his classes.
Joyce McFarlane uncrossed her arms and took her gum out of her mouth. “They help you find where you’re going if you’re so lame you can’t figure it out. But, your Mom can also see if you took her car when you weren’t supposed to.” She popped her gum back in and got out a small mirror to check her eyeliner.
“So GPS is a negative when it makes it harder to commit crimes?” Mr. Ingersoll enjoyed playing devil’s advocate. If only he’d stuck with law school, he could be arguing in front of a judge instead of this sullen bunch of yokels.
“Its shouldn’t be a crime to drive at age 16. It’s a right. You had that right”, Jeremy said, forgetting his plan to keep his mouth shut in class.
“Hmm, I don’t think the right to drive is mentioned in the constitution anywhere,“ pointed out Mr. Ingersoll. “Perhaps it’s better viewed as a privilege. When you abuse the privilege, you lose it. It’s like with drunken drivers who have to have their cars fitted with breathalyzers to ensure they don’t drive while intoxicated.”
Jeremy objected, “But they did something wrong in the first place. All we did was be born at the wrong time.”
Brad said, “It’s class discrimination, is what it is. Governor Eidenberger punished a whole class of people for the actions of a reckless few. The ACLU really needs to take this on!” as the class cheered.
Raven Wheeler adjusted the bandage on her arm which partially covered her tiny tattoo. She too had planned to keep quiet, but she thrust her hand in the air to get Mr. Ingersoll’s attention. When he gave her the nod, she said “Actually, studies show that over 85% of the car accidents with drivers under 18 involved a male driver. Males are loaded with testosterone, which depletes the brain cells. Studies also show that when males get in groups, their brain power decreases further and they make poor decisions. Why should womankind suffer because a bunch of teenage guys went drag racing?” Her fair skin was flushed as the girls in the class pumped their fists in the air, while the boys booed and gave her the thumbs down sign.
Mr. Ingersoll was fired up.”Now this is what I call lively debate! What do you propose as a solution?” He directed his question to Raven.
“Obviously, girls should be allowed to drive at age 16 and boys should still be prohibited until they mature a bit more. Girls mature more quickly and are more responsible by nature.” Raven had to raise her voice to drown out the derisive snorts by the boys.
“How is that fair?” demanded Jeremy, his voice cracking a bit.
“Well,” said Raven, “it’s not fair that guys are dragging us all down to their level. I’m not even allowed to prove I’m a good driver because men have been messing up for so long. I’ve been judged without a trial.”
“So have all of us!” said Jeremy.
Brad raised both of his hands and announced, “I have the solution. Guys should be allowed to drive at age 16, because we have to be able to take girls on dates. Girls are passive and let the guys do the driving, so they can wait until they’re 20. The roads will be a lot safer without chicks applying makeup as they drive.” He high-fived the guys sitting around him.
Raven rolled her eyes. “You’re an idiot. Thank you for making my case for me.”
“I apologize for that last remark, Raven”, said Brad with mock sincerity. “It clearly didn’t apply to you since you don’t wear makeup.”
“I don’t want to have to drive on dates,” said Candace, to nobody in particular.
Raven turned to Brad and smiled. “I feel sorry for you,” she said. “Maybe you should apply for some sort of disability due to testosterone poisoning. You could tool around on a scooter like my grandmother does.”
Ingersoll intervened. “Enough! Take out some paper and write an essay about society’s responsibility – if any – to responsibly use technology. Also, senior project topics are due by Friday.”