A young lady, let’s call her Jess, is employed as a trainer of a newly discovered alien species known as the Taurans. These Taurans are orphans of the Human-Tauran War which has, at last, been recognised as a terrible mistake based on mistrust, fear and ignorance. Also, the Taurans have funny looking heads and three arms. As a result Tauran pits – the Taurans don’t seem to like sitting down or being inside much – have been set up for the young aliens to learn in. There are many Tauran pits, some run well and some run poorly, with many audience members looking on. Some pits produce Taurans who can speak fluent English, whilst others struggle due to a lack of funding, poor leadership and contextual socio-economic factors of the local area – essentially the humans of some space ports, notably in lunar areas, don’t want these young Taurans growing up and stealing their jobs. Some of the audience have adopted the Taurans whilst others like to consider themselves as Tauran experts, or Taurologists. Some of the Taurologists refer to all those in the pits as ‘stakeholders’, whilst others refer to them by their names. This isn’t as fashionable but since these people don’t control Tauran pit policy they don’t really get a say. After all, someone like Jess is exactly the sort of person who shouldn’t be asked about Tauran policy as she won’t be able to see the sun for the stars.
Jess has just graduated from her university’s Taurology department, but, unbeknownst to her, much of the training was based on either pseudoscience, outdated ideas or a particular brand of thinking that assumes letting the Taurans do what they want, like trying to breath Earth’s oxygen (which would be highly toxic), is all very twenty-third century and thus unswervingly correct. After all, these Taurans will one day be doing jobs that haven’t been invented yet! Jess did actually have some great mentors during her training year but was confused by their advice at times as it seemed to directly contradict what her university professors said. The professors called her mentors difficult and jaded, but someone at one pit had called them ‘experienced’. Jess has some friends in other universities who seem to have other ideas, but they haven’t been shown the Pits Kill Creativity video so what do they know?
Anyway, here’s Jess with her Tauran-centred training, ready to facilitate her Tauran-speaking students some C23 skills. She’s armed with purple lasers, 4D stamps, a holographic white board and a BrainBit called The Tauran Guru. But, as all who’ve encountered young Taurans in a poorer area know, a pit of thirty can be difficult to manage, especially once you’re on your own. Jess works hard to build relationships with the Taurans by letting them choose from a range the activities in the holo rooms, making her sessions virtually engaging and allowing them to work in packs. However, they don’t respond. In fact, the more choice she gives the Taurans the more their behaviour deteriorates. It’s all so counter-intuitive!
So Jess asks an ex-Taurologist who’s a family friend for some advice. Luckily the Taurologist is reasonably in tune with the latest BrainBits and suggests that Jess downloads a few to get her started. These include Why Don’t Taurans Like Pits?, 100 Ideas for Tauran Pits, Seven Myths About Taurans, Visible Taurans, The Hidden Lives of Taurans, What If Everything You Knew About Taurans Was Wrong?, The Perfect Tauran Pit and Trivium 23c. What a group! She’s never heard of the authors as they weren’t on the university reading lists but the Tuarologist assures her that there’s some interesting, and provocative, ideas in each one. Jess isn’t totally convinced as a few of them have blurb that contradict everything she knows, but is ready to give the BrainBits a go. She has, obviously, read a few chapters of Inside the Tauran which, she has been assured, is all about using biometric tarsal pad scanners to digitise and then gauge the Taurans’ immediate responses to activities, thus chunking all further training into smaller bits so that the Taurans become utterly dependent on Jess’s expertise.
Jess also asks her pit commander for some support regarding punitive consequences – despite all her Tauran-centred training she thinks that some of the actions in the pit, like mind-controlling obscene drawings of Tauran anatomy on to the HWB and building an AI-war robot capable of eviscerating small animals, are perhaps more than she can handle and need to be dealt with higher up the food chain. She’s told off by her commander – Tauran behaviour is her responsibility. How will the Taurans learn if she just passes the buckrogers?
And so Jess gets to downloading the BrainBits. But there’s so much! And so much appears either contradictory, or at least contradictory to her training and her pit’s policies, that she can’t make helmet nor antenna of it. And how can she manage to train, plan and mark on top of all this BrainBitting, alongside leading a rich and varied galaxy life? And what if she doesn’t get a Mega on her next review? Will she be able to keep up payments on her holospace? Some of these ideas she’s BrainBitting will really rile her commanders and she doesn’t want to make enemies – she’s already training some! iGod, thinks Jess, I feel so alone. Maybe this isn’t for me? I want to help enrich these Taurans’ lives but it seems like everyone’s against me. The Taurans don’t know any better but they do need to be taught, surely? Otherwise they’ll never be civilised to an extent where we can set them free. There’s something wrong, thinks Jess, but most of the commanders at my pit say it’ll get better. I guess they know what they’re talking about.
After a couple of terms a new Galactic Council is announced and a brand new Arch-Admiral of Tauran Affairs is appointed at the GCfTA. The previous AAoTA at the GCfTA was disliked by many of Jess’ peers (no-one really knew why, but by Jupiter! They were bloody angry about it) although this new AI, a Martian drone which tends to repeat itself without answering questions, might rival her predecessor. The AAoTA, along with the Under Emperor of State, declares that Tauran home world ideology, or Taurism, is dangerously stirring up trouble in Andromeda and so all Taurans must be trained via Bi-weekly Offworld Love and Liberality Of Xenomorphs (BOLLOX) courses. Jess is required to retrain, although no Galactic Council funding or training is forthcoming and so organisations such as Educalien offer their own professional development BrainBits at extortionate prices. Jess’s pit can’t really afford this so deliver their own in-pit training via the Tauran Support Department which is staffed by a 300 year old lady who used to work for Relate.
Unfortunately, due to an improbable concoction of hatred, misunderstanding, ignorance and fear that absolutely no one thought could possibly happen and which had nothing to do with Galatic Council policy some of the Taurans are attacked and the pit is placed into Special Circumstances. Jess is now required to submit a plan for every training session which involves a list of all the technology used, how she’s developing their 8th dimensional recognition and a justification for any font other than an ancient one known only as ‘Le Sans’. The training objectives are to be displayed in English only as it is felt that the if the Taurans better understood the language then locals might be less bigoted.
A month later, with Jess as jaded as those older colleagues on her training year, a new AAoTA is appointed who believes that knowledge is dead: iKnowledge is what Taurans need to succeed. Jess’s pit is now part of a Multi-Pit Trust which allows baby Taurans, or Tauranitas, to fail tests so that the secondary phase pits show greater progress. Jess has finally caught up with some of the BrainBits, however, and she’s starting to question quite a lot of what she sees. She tries to put into practice some of what she’s read but is offered little support by her new commander who, Jess suspects, will disappear as soon as the secondary phase pits’ results improve.
By the end of her first solar cycle Jess should be thoroughly confused, dejected and demoralised. By chance, though, she’s stumbled across a network of trainers who really want to do good. Jess, like many of her colleagues, has worked hard all cycle with the best interests of the Taurans at heart but she now questions whether in practice her actions were positive. This network, along with the Taurologist who suggested the BrainBits, exist because of the technological age they inhabit. Many, however, recognise that C23 learning might be effective using ancient techniques that existed even before Le Sans: knowledge, discipline and care.
The Taurans appear in Joe Haldeman’s 1974 science fiction novel The Forever War. Any other references, whether to science fiction or education policies, literature or real people are entirely coincidental and do not reflect the views of the author.