Margaret bustled into the room, rattling off numbers from her clipboard. “Batch one thousand through eight are declining .09%, with only 13% seeing an increase in productivity.”
John nodded, tapping on his keyboard. Charts and spreadsheets popped up on the tiny monitor, confirming Margaret’s words.
She pushed a small chair out of the way so she could stand more easily in the tiny office. “There’s been a .3% decrease in movie purchases in all but two hundred through five hundred and a similar decline in Vitamin D levels, a direct result of the 2.4% decrease in time spent outdoors.”
John sighed. “And the reason for this decline.”
Margaret consulted her clipboard. “The recent restructuring of GPA calculations we issued last month.” She placed a thick report from the analysis department on his desk.
John made a mental note to throw it in the shredder. At this rate, he wouldn’t get home until eight.
“What do you propose we do?” Technically, that part was his job.
“In order to preserve the 14% increase in SAT scores, I propose that we-”
“Just give me the piece of paper.” John said, waving at her to hand him the sheet.
Margaret forced a smile and handed him her proposal. He scribbled his approval at the bottom of the page.
“Now take this to the executive department for implementation.”
When Margaret was gone, John kicked his feet up on his desk and took a nap.
The Decline of The Egyptian Empire. No, that was completely wrong. Maybe if he italicized it… The Decline of The Egyptian Empire. Bold might make it more impressive. The Decline of The Egyptian Empire Yes, that was better. Kyle tried to remember if Ms. Philip liked serif fonts.
He pulled open the filling cabinet on his right, his fingers nimbly navigating the many folders until they found what he was looking for: “Survey of Ms. Philip’s Students”. There had to be something on font in here. He was sure he had asked that question when he sent out the email.
To his disappointment, there was little on the subject. Even when he organized the grades based on font, he had trouble isolating the data. At worst, the use of serif could decrease his grade .1932%; at best, an increase of .42%. That was too big of a risk to take.
Kyle wheeled his chair over to the GPA graph that dominated his left wall, pulling his chair into the small table he reserved for such calculations. This paper was one of eight essays he would write this year, making it 12.5% of his essay grade, which was 15% of his semester grade, making this paper .9375% of his year grade. That made the possible decrease of .1932% exactly .00181125% of his year grade. Kyle started to panic. He began frantically punching numbers on his calculator.
The .00181125% possible decrease would increase his chance of getting an A- by… the calculator was lagging with the complexity of his calculations. Two whole summers had been dedicated to learning the probability formulas necessary to calculate this; to insure that his GPA was on his side. The calculator beeped. Kyle glanced down at the number and nearly fainted. The use of serif fonts could result in an entire .00000000019342% increase in the probability of getting an A-, a .00000000000042% increase in the probability of getting a B+, and a .00000000000001% chance of getting a B!
There was no time to waste. Kyle stood up and dragged his chair back over to his computer, stopping briefly to fix his shades. A small beam of light had somehow penetrated the blinds, a possible distraction from his computer screen. He tore a piece of duck tape from a role of the windowsill and pressed it over the hole in his blinds. There, no distractions.
PING! Kyle raced over to the computer. This had to be an email response to his fifty-question survey on Mr. Clark’s English class. With the proper information, he might be able to even offset the risk of using a serif font on Ms. Philip’s paper. Or maybe it was President Obama’s response to his request for a college recommendation. It turned out to be neither. Instead, the subject read “School Board Announcement”
At the request of the NSMO (National Student Manipulation Office) the School Board has agreed to re-weight your GPA. A new “Social Life” grade will now count for 94.382% of your GPA, regardless of the number, weight, or level of the courses you currently take. The School Board believes that this will….
It took a total of three seconds for Kyle to process the information. Then, his instincts kicked in. He threw the neat rows of sharpened pencils on his desk into the trashcan; shredding his old math tests as well. He tore the duct tape off of his blinds and pulled them up, hoping the sunlight would add color to his deathly pale skin.
Already, his mind was working to dispose of the useless knowledge clogging up his brain. Trig notes and history lectures now utterly insignificant went into his mental shredder. No longer did he bother to remember the characters of Jane Eyre or how Mr. Daniels liked his coffee. The vocab for English was pushed aside to make room for the urban dictionary slang he would now have to memorize.
PING! Kyle was already at his desk before the chime completed, scrolling quickly through the second email.
At the request of the NSMO (National Student Manipulation Office) the Ivy League has agreed to focus the interview process on “Social Life” and ignore any references to so-called “Extracurricular Activities” if they are not undeniably social in nature.
Within minutes, Kyle was on the phone with the homeless shelter and soup kitchen, informing them that he would no longer be able to participate in their causes. He made sure to forward them the Ivy League email so that they could adjust to the realities of 21st century resume padding.
Next was his own personal “Read for the Homeless” foundation, which helped homeless orphan children become literate. Or, at least, it had until 12:11 that day when Kyle instructed them to move all the orphan children back onto the streets to make room for a new party hang out. He made sure, again, to forward the Ivy League email to the children so they could adjust to their new purpose in society. Maybe if they learned to be more social, they could regain their use in resume padding.
After he had dealt with his extracurriculars, Kyle moved to building up the social life that had, until recently, been completely irrelevant. Unsure of what was “trending” (he had just picked up the word from Urban Dictionary) Kyle decided to cover all his bases. He registered for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, and even MySpace, just in case it made a comeback. After friending every one he knew, and a lot more people he didn’t, Kyle realized that he didn’t have any content to post. A little bit of research showed that the secret to amazing Facebook posts was a cat, but his parents had balked at his suggestion.
Kyle realized that he needed help. An hour flipping through the yellow pages wasn’t any more fruitful than his Internet search for a “Social Life Tutor”. In times like these, Kyle’s fallback was to send out a mass email:
Dear Fellow Students. I’m looking for a friend and/or tutor for my “Social Life”. A friendship would be mutually beneficial to our college applications and could improve our GPA by…
Kyle wheeled his chair over to the GPA graph, punching numbers
57.92%, assuming average grades. I’m willing to pay up to $130 an hour for a tutor, with a possible bonus for SAT II prep.
Kyle assumed there was an SAT II.
You may either respond directly to this email, or contact 555-543-4444.
There. Now he should be all set.
“A B minus!” Kyle shrieked.
“Honey, I’m sure it isn’t that bad.” His mother tried to place a comforting had on his back.
He pulled away, letting loose a stream of swears and insults he had learned for the course. “That’s a ******* 57% decrease in my ******** GPA!”
“Maybe if I contact the teacher, something could be changed.”
Kyle was starting to hyperventilate.
His mother took his lack of swearing as a ‘yes’. “Sweaty, what’s the teacher’s name?”
“M-Mr… uhhhh… Ms. Ar….u-u-u-uh… M-Ms. Th-Tha…ummmmm” Kyle stuttered. “I do-don’t think th-there is o-one.”
John scrolled through the charts on his screen, muttering to himself. SAT scores were plummeting, along with the Math, English, Science and Language aptitude tests. What progress they had made over the past twenty years had been destroyed.
People were taking the SATs without tutoring. The number of extracurricular activities was dropping. The “passions” that the NSMO had cultivated had melting away with their weight in college admissions. Now all that was left was a series a zigzagging lines, speeding towards the bottom of the graphs.
Margaret slipped into the room, her precious clipboard dangling at her side. Most of the confidence had fled her voice, leaving it weak, timid, and fragile.
“There’s a 14.4% increase in time spent outdoors.” She struggled to keep her voice above a whisper. “And a 4.9% increase in movies purchases.”
John glared at her.
She ventured on, her voice trembling. “Culminating in a 34.32% increase in happiness.”
John was unmoved, his mind preoccupied with the declining test scores.
“If I may say so.” She paused, taking the lack of objection as permission. “The life-aptitude tests scores have increased 29%, so maybe-”
John finally spoke. “Since when do we care about life-aptitude tests.”
“If I may say so, the point of the NSMO is to prepare our children for li-”
“The point of the NSMO,” John interjected. “is to get those numbers on the screen higher.”
Margaret broke down into tears.