Stockton, CA—It’s the time of year when sprinklers fill the air with rainbows, industrial lawnmowers spew grass and noise, and Mutatus University changes everything.
“We’re lucky to see a paradigm shift in action,” said summer school student Sebastian Strewer. “Most people are away, so they miss out.”
“They’re like earthquakes,” added classmate Leslie Tofel. “We’re learning about them in credit recovery class. They shake up the way we envision the world. Mutatus is special because it has one every year. Woo-hoo!”
Asked why these paradigm shifts take place in summer, President Owen Uberkuhn let out a raucous laugh, then shook his head.
“You haven’t seen much, I can tell,” Uberkuhn replied. “The best time to bring in a big idea is when no one’s around. Professors are pernicious. Get a bunch of them in a room, and before you know it, they’ve found fault with your big idea. So much for your fifty-million-dollar grant. So much for your PR campaign. And forget about the students, with their newspapers and radio stations. They’ll wreak havoc if you give them a chance. Except these credit recovery students, who need to pass the course.”
When pressed for examples of big ideas, he leaned forward and lowered his voice. “First of all, we need to change everything about teaching and learning. Videos are in, books are out. Instructors are out, students are in. We’re also getting rid of tenure so everyone’s always on edge. Suspense brings out people’s best. Third–”
“Where should I put this, Mr. President?” asked a custodial worker, wheeling in a six-foot box.
“One in each lecture hall. You should find a hundred thirteen of them in the warehouse.” The worker wheeled the box back out of the office. “Robot spies,” Uberkuhn said proudly. “They look like overhead projectors, but they actually send data to surveillance workers in India. We catch anyone who isn’t embracing change.”
We then took a tour around campus with Senior Overhaul Officer Lydia Pyle.
“We’re eliminating all dorms,” said Pyle, waving her hand at the construction nearby. “Students will all live together in one big hall. Now, I know what you’re thinking,” she chuckled. “Don’t you worry. To get their privacy, all they have to do is push a button, and a curtain falls down around them. It doesn’t get more flexible than that.”
Pyle took us into the main dining hall, where a broad conveyor belt slithered around the room. “You may think the food’s going to come around on that belt, but you’re wrong! It’s the students who will ride it,” she told us proudly. “Then they have to grab food as they pass through the kitchen. It teaches them quick-thinking skills. That’s exactly what the economy is like.” She gave a sigh. “And that concludes the tour and my job. I was offered a position elsewhere and decided to grab it before I got canned over here.” She lowered her voice to a whisper. “Because anyone can get canned here, even Uberkuhn.”
In the future, Mutatus plans to implement paradigm shifts throughout the year. Possible activities include mass executions, book burnings, merit pay awards, and drastic redefinitions of academic disciplines. “Math’s the opposite of precision,” declares a banner in the making. “The readiness is all,” says the inscription on an axe. These items are kept in a secret storage room, but their existence is well known.
“I’m so glad we’re having executions soon,” said an unnamed music professor. “For years, my head’s been hanging by a vocal cord, as it were. Might as well chop it off entirely.”
Ninety-two percent of faculty stated in a survey that they hoped to find a new job before the next paradigm shift.
“It’s working, don’t you see?” said Uberkuhn. “They’d rather leave than break our great tradition. And those who plan to stay, they’re like our dear Ambrose, the one who spoke to you in secret. They know we’re onto them, and they’re ready for what’s coming.”