Friday, 24 October 2014

Terrestrial Society

What is Terrestrial society like in the Solar Commonwealth? Surely they have school education for everyone until the age of maybe sixteen or eighteen? No, Eric Wace, Nicholas van Rijn's factor on Diomedes:

"...had begun as a warehouse apprentice at the age of twelve..."
-Poul Anderson, The Van Rijn Method (New York, 2009), p. 346.

Have social conditions retrogressed that far? A technological economy needs literate, numerate, computer-literate and healthy workers and consumers. I would expect the Solar government to provide universal compulsory school education and the Polesotechnic League corporations to pay taxes for public schools rather than to fund and administer elementary training of their employees.

The forty three installments of Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization are our only window on this fictitious universe but we can make reasonable inferences from the texts. Van Rijn asks rhetorically and scornfully whether the urban masses are free. They can be if they understand and make decisions about their lives and careers, even though they are not all merchant princes; not everyone can be or wants to be that!

I would like to read a novel about ordinary life on Earth in the Solar Commonwealth period. For some reflections on the period, see here and here.

5 comments:

  1. Hi, Paul!

    In your comments about Eric Wace and education during the time of the Solar Commonwealth, I think you are overlooking an important point: up till at least the Satan/Shen incident, the mood and ideal was LIBERTARIAN. That is, hostile to the idea of a centralized state--and probably including popular dislike to the idea of schools run by or paid for by taxes. Education was probably left to various kinds of private, ecclesiastical, corporate, technical, or trades oriented institutions.

    I can easily imagine how, remembering the tyrannies and despotisms of the 20th and 21st centuries, there could be a widespread reaction against any kind of too powerful state. And that would include a distaste for gov't run or paid schools. I don't know how familiar with US tax oaid schools (what we call "public" schools, different from the British use of that term) you are, but many, many of them are terrible in quality. I can easily see that leadinig to a movement to abolish or severely limit the use of tax paid schools during the heyday of the Commonwealth.

    Sean

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  2. Sean,
    You are probably right. (I deliberately used the phrase "public school" in its American sense in this post.) It is fascinating to reflect on these background details of Technic Civilization.
    Paul.

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    1. Hi, Paul!

      I agree, and I wish we knew more about the details of every day life on Earth during both the Solar Commonwealth and the Terran Empire.

      Sean

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  3. Sean,
    Although I think you are right about education in the Solar Commonwealth, it is an educational system that leaves some people, like Wace, starting work at the age of twelve, so I think that this system also has its flaws.
    Paul.

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    1. Hi, Paul!

      True, but if my memory of THE MAN WHO COUNTS is correct, Wace himself didn't seem to mind; to say nothing of how he still became an engineer and an employee of Solar Spice and Liquors. Plus, he seems to have believed himself likely to rise fairly high within the Company. So, Wace himself seems to have prospered.

      My view remains that all societies will have their flaws and defects. I would prefer to err on the side of putting chains on the power of the state.

      Sean

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