THURSDAY 08 JUNE 2017, 12:00, IN TERRIS

BLACK MAGIC IN THE SCHOOL BOOK

FEDERICO CENCI
BLACK MAGIC IN THE SCHOOL BOOK
BLACK MAGIC IN THE SCHOOL BOOK
Are you a student in difficulty with the studies? Are you worried for the end of year exams or for the recovery of an educational debt? If relying on one’s own forces appears now impervious, why not trying with magic?

The book


This seduction against young pupils does not come from some occultism web sites, but from an excerpt of a science fiction book part of an history text in use in secondary schools. The link between the science fiction and the learning of the medieval history is very simple. In the book, there are a series of sheets with exercises that have the objective of making the students familiar with the construction of the books of history.

This role is entrusted to the story titled "Naturally" and contained in the book "Mathematical Stories" (ed. Einaudi, 2006), by the science fiction writer Fredric Brown died in1972. "What follows - reads the introductory cap prepared by the publisher of the textbook - is the story of a student that it is better to not imitate. Read the succession of the events that have a very different outcome from what the protagonist would have hoped".

The history


The protagonist is a college student who is surrounded by the pages of his geometry books, late with the studies and facing the risk that the eventual umpteenth failure of an exam would lead to his expulsion from the university.
Discouraged, the young boy has the idea to rely on occult forces to achieve the purpose of passing the exam. "He was always interested in magic and he read on the books few simple instructions to evoke a demon and to force him to obey his will", writes Brown. The rest - still reads - "was a dangerous thing, but that was an emergency and it was worth the risk. Only thanks to the magic he could become an expert in Geometry".

The epilogue


So the young boy takes a book of "black magic" from one shelf, starts to read the necessary instructions and, on the basis of what he understood, in order to obtain the coveted result, he draws a pentagon with the chalk on the carpet and enters it. After that, he pronounces the spells. At this point appears a demon described as "more horrible than he expected", to which the young boy, after taking courage, starts to explain: "I have never been good at geometry…". But the demon intervenes and "with sadistic joy " says: "I realized". The demon follows his words with facts: "And with a flaming smile he grabbed him through the lines of chalk of the useless pentagon that Henry erroneously drew, instead of the hexagon that would have protected him". The story ends here. The exercise requested to the students is to "Order the events narrated in the story in the order in which they occurred."

Questionable teaching


A way to educate students to be able to locate key events in a text, to be able to understand the connections between them and to evaluate those of greater or lesser importance. The risk, however, is that in addition to being a merely teaching instrument, this story may constitute a sinister suggestion for the pupils. The students of the secondary schools, so vulnerable as they are to the suggestions that come from the outside world, and constantly busy with the studies, may be persuaded that really “only thanks to magic" one can become experts in some subject.

Risks


The end of the story is quite curious. There is a figure that accordingly to the demon "would have protected" the young boy. This figure is the hexagon, a recurring symbol in the context of the occultism that represents the terrestrial revolutions. Who knows what exactly the author, Fredric Brown, meant. The use of symbols in the occultism to communicate in a cryptical way, to deliver messages between the lines, is widespread.
In short, a small distillate of occultism is present in a text used by secondary school students. It is true that the publisher of the textbook introduces the narrative describing the protagonist as a "young man not to be imitated". However, you know, young people are very weak to the charm of the prohibited things. Especially when it is associated with the illusion of being able to solve problems without effort.
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