Chapter 14 – A Close Up Illustration With A Hand Holding Her Tightly (1)
“Professor, I think this is unfair.”
Louise quickly raised her hand and protested. This is what anyone would do in this situation. Professor Hewitt looked at her for a moment then flicked his eyes towards his attendance book.
“You must be Louise Sweeney.”
“Yes, sir. This is my first class.”
“Is there a rule that says I can’t give a test on the first day of class?”
“Then there’s no problem here.”
As Louise hesitated the boy who was sitting in front of her also raised his hand. This was the student who wanted to become the successor in his family.
“Professor, testing for qualifications seems to mean that you’re trying to screen out students.”
He put it as politely as possible, but there was criticism in it. The Academy was a place for learning without discrimination or restriction. It was a value that had been maintained since its establishment.
Professor Hewitt was undeterred by the boy’s comment. On the contrary, he drew himself up to his full height and stared at the boy’s face.
“I’ll ask you a question. Can you teach a toddler to dance? “
“Can you write poems in a foreign language when you’ve barely learned the words?”
No one answered, so the professor elaborated.
“You need to be prepared before you take these lectures. You have to learn how to balance yourself before you learn to dance, like you have to know a culture’s language and sensibility before you write poetry.”
At first glance, the professor had a point. However, as Academy students, they had already passed the minimum requirement of intelligence and cultural knowledge through the entrance examination. Perhaps the professor was asking for other qualities that the entrance exam alone could not identify. What was it? What were the elusive qualities necessary for history class?
As for Louise, she was confident that she could pass memorizing history. She had faith in her other classmates too, especially Ian. One of the crown prince’s duties was to learn about the state of the country and the world affairs surrounding it.
“You have a blank expression. All right, I’ll ask you this in the most straightforward way I can.”
The professor looked at the boy with a critical stare.
“If you can’t answer properly, get out of my room right now. Run straight to the office and drop the course.”
The boy’s shoulders were trembling slightly. Depending on his answer, he could be removed from the line of succession forever.
“Define your values.”
The student, who expected a history question, was surprised. He wasn’t the only one. Louise also didn’t know what to make of the question. Define your values. She could understand if it had been posed in a philosophy class, but they were currently sitting in history class.
The boy mumbled things like “good habits” and “family traditions,” but he couldn’t give anything more than a generic response. Anyone wouldn’t have if they were suddenly asked that question.
The professor turned his eyes and asked another student the same question. It was the same result. Had they been asked to write it down on paper they might’ve come up with a more defined answer, but being put in the spotlight like this they defaulted to general wisdom.
“What about you?”
He now directed his question to Louise.
Louise tried to guess what answer he wanted.
“I think we can find the answer from a historian’s writings.”
“I didn’t ask about the lesson plan.”
“That’s what you’re supposed to teach.”
The professor laughed and turned his head away.
“This isn’t elementary school where you open a textbook and simply memorize passages. This is an advanced curriculum to foster a good historian.”
Sure, a good historian must have many things, but among that the most important was the professor.
“Center of thought, values. You must have a firm root to ensure consistency. Without that–“
The professor said clearly, looking at Louise and the other students one by one.
“–you will be swayed by other people’s currents. Like fallen leaves in the water.”
He clapped the attendance book closed. He seemed to be preparing to leave the lecture hall first.
The boy looked dejected. Of course Professor Hewitt’s class would be offered the next semester, but based on the rumors that would sure come out from today, it would start with a tight number of students again. The professor will likely test the students’ abilities and no one would sign up for the class at all. Louise remembered Claire’s words of advice.
“When students feel like they’ve been treated unfairly, the most important thing to do is to stand up for them.”
This was the moment Louise had to do something, whether or not she would succeed. If she stepped forward, Ian would back her up as the president of the student council.
“Class is over. Louise Sweeney, you can go back to the office and say you’ll drop the class. I’ll give my approval at any time. “
“No, I want to take your class.”
“I don’t feel like teaching you.”
“Values come from the environment one is in.”
Louise pushed on determinedly.
“Because of this, it is the parents’ and professors’ duty to create the best environment possible for their students.”
“In other words.”
The professor put the attendance book down again. His wrinkled eyes tightened in anger.
“You think I am not fulfilling my duty.”
“…In a way.”
Louise did not bother to deny it, and Professor Hewitt was looking at her very carefully as if he was gauging her. Louise had small ray of hope. There seemed to be a glimmer of possibility.
“I think the professor is right.”
…Until she heard some crap from direction the window.
Louise whirled around to look at him with a stunned expression. Ian was sitting with his chin propped up on his hand. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing! He was the president of the student council. He should be on the side of the student more than anyone. He would allow this class to close?
“If you put someone else’s opinions in your head, you’ll soon be a prisoner of their prejudices,”
he added, as if to prove to Louise that she had not misheard him.
“Listening to other people’s opinions doesn’t mean you’ll have their prejudices!”
“It’s easy if you only listen to them. They would eventually persuade you to their logic and make you give in.”
“Then who could take this class?”
“That’s why Professor Hewitt, who is able to make that judgment, is standing at the teaching table.”
“Well, that’s strange! If someone can’t have access to good values–”
Ian interrupted Louise.
“That’s the problem. Exactly.”
“You think that the Academy’s concept of history are already great and right. You’ve already given up judging for yourself.”
As Louise hesitated, the boy turned his head and asked Ian.
“The Academy has proven itself for a long time. You’re as close to the established academic opinion as you can get.”
“The majority opinion does not determine the greatness.”
“So if intelligence moves away from greatness, does that mean it ignores scholars who seek genuine truth?”
Asked the boy, but instead of answer Ian turned to the professor.
Professor Hewitt nodded, allowing him to speak.
“I think the topic of how personal values are shaped by history is a more suitable discussion for the first class.”
“…It seems you do not agree with me much.”
“I don’t agree with anyone, Professor,”
Ian replied with a grin, and the professor sighed deeply for a moment.
“We’ll continue this discussion next time. The assigned reading will be posted on the bulletin board tomorrow. “
He made to leave the classroom, then turned around again.
“The questions I asked today will be revisited in this semester’s final exam. You’d better expect failure if you don’t have a different answer. Especially…”
He focused his glare at Louise. Ugh. She didn’t want to be targeted this way. Her goal of graduating as the top student in the Academy seemed to be drifting further away from her.