Random House, Inc. From EARTH IS ROOM ENOUGH by Isaac
Asimov, copyright © 1957 by Isaac Asimov. Used by permission of
Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc.
During Reading Strategy
What Do You Learn?
Vocabulary from the Selection
even wrote about it that night in her diary. On the page headed May 17,
2157, she wrote, “Today Tommy found a real book!”
It was a very old book. Margie’s grandfather once said that when
he was a little boy, his grandfather told him that there was a time when
all stories were printed on paper.
They turned the
pages, which were yellow and crinkly; and it was awfully funny to read
words that stood still instead of moving the way they were supposed to—on
a screen, you know. And then, when they turned back to the page before,
it had the same words on it that it had had when they read it the first
“Gee,” said Tommy, “what a waste. When you’re through
with the book, you just throw it away, I guess. Our television screen must have
had a million books on it, and it’s good for plenty more. I wouldn’t
throw it away.”
Guided Reading Question 1
What do Tommy and Margie find unusual about this book?
mine,” said Margie. She was eleven and hadn’t seen as many
telebooks as Tommy had. He was thirteen.
She said, “Where did you find it?”
“In my house.” He pointed without looking, because he was busy
reading. “In the attic.”
“What’s it about?”
Margie was scornful
. “School? What’s there to write about school?
I hate school.”
Margie always hated school, but now she hated it more than ever. The mechanical
teacher had been giving her test after test in geography, and she had been
doing worse and worse until her mother had shaken her head sorrowfully
and sent for the County Inspector.
Guided Reading Question 2
Why does Margie hate school more than ever?
He was a round little man with a red face and a whole
box of tools with dials and wires. He smiled at Margie and gave her
an apple, then took the teacher apart. Margie had hoped he wouldn’t
know how to put it together again, but he knew how all right; and after
an hour or so, there it was again, large and black and ugly, with a
big screen on which all the lessons were shown and the questions were
asked. That wasn’t so bad. The part Margie hated most was the
slot where she had to put homework and test papers. She always had
to write them out in a punch code they made her learn when she was
six years old, and the mechanical teacher calculated the mark in no
The Inspector had smiled after he was finished and patted Margie’s
head. He said to her mother, “It’s not the little girl’s
fault, Mrs. Jones. I think the geography sector was geared a little
too quick. Those things happen sometimes. I’ve slowed it up to
an average ten-year level. Actually, the overall pattern of her progress
is quite satisfactory.” And he patted Margie’s head again.
Margie was disappointed. She had been hoping they would take the teacher
away altogether. They had once taken Tommy’s teacher away for
nearly a month because the history sector had blanked out completely.
So she said to Tommy, “Why would anyone write about school?”
Tommy looked at her with very superior eyes. “Because it’s
not our kind of school, stupid. This is the old kind of school that
they had hundreds and hundreds of years ago.” He added loftily,
pronouncing the word carefully, “Centuries ago.”
Margie was hurt. “Well, I don’t know what kind of school
they had all that time ago.” She read the book over his shoulder
for a while, then said, “Anyway, they had a teacher.”
“Sure they had a teacher, but it wasn’t a regular teacher. It was
“A man? How could a man be a teacher?”
“Well, he just told the boys and girls things and gave them homework
and asked them questions.”
Guided Reading Question 3
What surprises Margie about teachers in the past?
“A man isn’t
“Sure he is. My father knows as much as my teacher.”
“He can’t. A man can’t know as much as a teacher.”
“He knows almost as much, I betcha.”
Margie wasn’t prepared to dispute that. She said, “I wouldn’t
want a strange man in my house to teach me.”
Tommy screamed with laughter. “You don’t know much, Margie. The teachers
didn’t live in the house. They had a special building, and all the kids
“And all the kids learned the same things?”
“Sure, if they were the same age.”
“But my mother says a teacher has to be adjusted to fit the mind of each
boy and girl it teaches and that each kid has to be taught differently."
What does Margie’s mother say about how kids must be taught?
“Just the same, they didn’t
do it that way then. If you don’t like it, you don’t have
to read the book.”
“I didn’t say I didn’t like it,” Margie said quickly.
She wanted to read about those funny schools.
They weren’t even half-finished when Margie’s mother called, “Margie!
Margie looked up. “Not yet, Mamma.”
“Now!” said Mrs. Jones. “And it’s probably time
for Tommy, too.”
Margie said to Tommy, “Can I read the book some more with you after
“Maybe,” he said nonchalantly. He walked away whistling, the
dusty old book tucked beneath his arm.
Margie went into the schoolroom. It was right next to her bedroom, and
the mechanical teacher was on and waiting for her. It was always on at
the same time every day except Saturday and Sunday, because her mother
said little girls learned better if they learned at regular hours.
The screen was lit up, and it said, “Today’s arithmetic lesson
is on the addition of proper fractions. Please insert yesterday’s
homework in the proper slot.”
Margie did so with a sigh. She was thinking about the old schools they
had when her grandfather’s grandfather was a little boy. All the
kids from the whole neighborhood came, laughing and shouting in the schoolyard,
sitting together in the schoolroom, going home together at the end of
the day. They learned the same things, so they could help one another
with the homework and talk about it.
What about the old schools does Margie ponder?
And the teachers were people. . .
The mechanical teacher was flashing on the screen, “When we add the
fractions 1/2 and 1/4—”
Margie was thinking about how the kids must have loved it in the old days.
She was thinking about the fun they had.