Educating the Macnaughtan Boys

Educating the Macnaughtan Boys, 47000 BC to 2946 AD

Originally published in Community College Moment 13 (Spr. 2013): 91-93.

I imagined this story as my 7-year-old ancestors (and descendants) passing through time and space: from their beginnings in East Africa, to the long trek through Asia and the Middle East before fetching up in Scotland, New Zealand, and the Americas. Over those millennia, I thought of the father figures in their lives trying to educate them as best they could, with the technologies of their time. Of course, they end up pretty much where they started, but that’s another story …


47000 BC

Lake Turkana, East Africa

See Nockt, we draw in the sand to show the elephants. Bring me the stick.

25000 BC

Altai Mountains, Central Asia

Look An’Nakt, we draw on the cave wall to show the reindeer. Bring me the pigment and fat.

4000 BC

Lake Van, Anatolia

You press into the clay like this, Nakit Ank. We call it writing. Bring me the stylus.

164 BC

Douro Valley, Lusitania

Hurry up lad! Stop scratching words on that sheepskin. The Romans are coming up the coast, we’re moving to Caledonia. I hear the weather is lovely up there…

380 AD

Eboracum, Britannia Caesarensis

Perhaps, Nectonius we will teach you to write, even though you are a pagan slave. Ha! you could send a letter to your barbarian brothers to stay north of the Wall, where they belong.

810 AD

A’Bheinne Mhor, Northern Pictland, Caledonia

Nechtan, look. The monk writes down the Word of God in the Book. Then he reads it to us on Sunday. Just as God and the Holy Mother intended.

1349 AD

Glen Lyon, Perthshire, Scotland

Domhnall mac Neachdainn, you don’t need to read. Just count. Count the cattle so we know what we have to give to the Laird. By the way, what are those black spots on your neck…?

1745 AD

Glen Lyon, Perthshire, Scotland

Son, I’m through fighting with King George’s men. We lost. Now we have to learn English. Bring your board and chalk to the Kirk tomorrow.

1858 AD

Glen Lyon, Perthshire, Scotland

Donald, the Laird’s evicted us from the farm. Pack your books, we’re moving to the heathen Antipodes! God, I hope they have a school there….

1963 AD

Auckland, New Zealand

Now who can tell me who came after George III…for God’s sake Macnaughtan! Wake up boy!

2018 AD

Eugene, Oregon

Invoice for required materials

eTextbooks: $245

Laptop: $630

Neural iPod: $195

WinMac software: $423

Video interface: $595

Payment by Visa, Mastercard or WalMartCard. No checks. Tuition extra.

2035 AD

Gatesville-Bellevue, Washington

Curriculum note: Each student must have their own pre-programmed PR (Personal Robot). Due to recent sponsorship contracts, you will be using the Model 43 POLECAT (Pepsi Organic Learning Environment/Cybernetic Activated Teacher). Mr Macnaughtan, your model has been recalled due to unauthorized tampering with the trouser area.

2065 AD

Smith City, Missouri

Attn: Junior Citizen Second Class Macnaughtan, you have not brought your required copy of Teachings of the Great Leader Smith. Report to Sector A.

2066 AD

Jones City, Missouri

Attn: Former Junior Citizen Third Class Macnaughtan, you have been caught with a copy of Teachings of the Great Traitor Smith. Report to Sector B.

2070 AD

Minneapolis, Reorganized United States

No time for class today. Report to the bunker in Sector C. Bring body armor. Mcnaughton, you are excused due to those black spots.

2085 AD (Year 8 New Era)

Phoenix, Arizona Republic

Teaching postponed again. One lesson next week, maybe. Cost per lesson is 3 cans or 8 rounds. Mcnorton, this time remember the chicken or you’re out.

2162 AD

Mexico City (former)

Parents! Our teacher has discovered some precious texts. They are called National Geo[indecipherable]. Bring your children to the third hole under the supermercado. Na-ton, you stay behind and guard the chickens.

2285 AD

Uxmal, Yucatan

Pastor Hoxha will be “reading” today from a thing called a book! It is named “The little engine that could!” It is a great mystery. Come to the plaza at dusk. Stay way, Naxh tan, the sheep are still afraid.

2644 AD

Huanchaca, Andean Mountains

Look Na’kt!an, we draw on the cave wall to show the llamas. Bring me the pigment and fat.

2946 AD

Chubut, Patagonia

See Nockt, we draw in the sand to show the elephants. Bring me the stick.