This is a philosophical and metaphoric story about an American high school. Specifically, it is about ambition, greed, gluttony, hatred, and the loss of humanity in the internet. High school is just a microcosm of the greater modern world. The story is a statement against the publishing companies, standardized testing, educational consultants, and others adults that harm children. The money--our tax dollars--is not getting to the kids. It is going to endless multiple ever-changing schemes to make money for a few adults.
For the kids, there really is a particular beauty to their youth, a tumbling exuberance, energy, and unprecedented growth and maturation. The stories are told through the specific journeys of Sialia and James who are students at Elysium Hills High School. Sialia is a Mexican immigrant who is artistic, outspoken, insightful and articulate. James is an Anglo who is immature, rowdy and wild. Other students include misfits, and Salvadoran immigrants. An analogous story unfolds in Mexico 500 years ago as two teenage Native Americans, Anci and Caulli, flee Cortez and the conquistadors. They are given a codex with the business plan on how to obtain riches. The kids are on a personal journey to transcend past xenophobia and to know themselves and be good. Within all this is the ever-pervasive loss of our own humanity through our interactions with the internet.
All the different storylines are told as parable-like metaphors through art history, biology and history. Specifically, the stories are about conquistadors, monoliths, parasites and invasive species. The lessons unfold in Mr. Tyndall's science classroom and as Sialia thumbs through books about art. The ambitious and deceitful school principal is meeting with an educational consultant as both are moving their respective careers ahead. Greed-driven publishing companies are making millions on new curricula and standardized tests. And like the conquistadors, the publishing companies have landed on the shores of American schools and are melting it down to fill the coffers of their greed. For American schools it highlights the need for educational ethics.
If we could see and know the personal journeys. If we could follow the tax money, the grant money, the tax shelters, the incentives, the business plan, the entrepreneurial schemes and see the effects on attendance, class size, discipline, honesty, and infrastructure. And from this, one has to ask some very important questions: What is the journey? What is transcendence? Are tax dollars getting to the kids? How to see beauty? Who do we want to be? Can we reconcile inequality? Can a good deed balance out something bad? Are ambition and pride good? Can we become good? Do you know yourself?
First do no harm.