The teachers are all dead

If you enjoy reading Electric Literature, join our mailing list! We’ll send you the best of EL each week, and you’ll be the first to know about upcoming submissions periods and virtual events.

Dear Readers,

We’re delighted to present this week’s Recommended Reading, “Our Education” by Lincoln Michel. It’s Lord of Flies meets 1984 meets The Breakfast Club, and it’s tragic, funny, and very brilliant (also, it comes with this awesome Single Sentence Animation):

“Obviously we no longer learn anything at the school or, perhaps more accurately, we learn many things, but not the things that we were meant to learn. We learn about love and pain and friendship. A few of us even learn about fornication, most by watching from afar (twice Carmichael, a small and sickly boy, and I have snuck behind the bleachers to watch the more muscular and nimble students tear off each other’s gym uniforms). History, mathematics, and biology are subjects lost to another time. Most of our textbooks have been repurposed for fuel. There is an ongoing fire in the back corner of the cafeteria.

… Much of our hushed hallway discussion concerns the teachers. Surrounded by the pale orange lockers, nasty words are uttered. The whispering is merely a habit. The teachers are all dead. Or else they are sleeping. Or in hiding. All that is known is that the teachers have disappeared and the teachers’ lounge is barricaded from the inside.”

Editor’s Note — Halimah Marcus:

So many of childhood fantasies are, from the perspective of a worry-prone adult, nightmares: running away, becoming an orphan, living in a boxcar. Yet the realities of such disorder eventually trump our desire for it; any kid who has tried to run away knows the feeling of getting half way down the block with a backpack and thinking, in a word, crap. This is the moment in which we find the narrator of Lincoln Michel’s tale of scholastic anarchy, “Our Education.” He is trapped in a school from which the teachers have all disappeared, but in his case, there is no option to break the fantasy, to go home.

This earnest and cautious young student continues to work on his final assignment in secret, searching for clues of the teachers and their legacy. “I cannot say what the lack of faculty means,” he thinks, in a deliciously ambiguous turn of phrase. Yet even to speculate on such matters is forbidden. “The concept of the teachers is absurd. What kind of teacher would leave their students?” says the tyrant of the group, former football team captain Clint Bulger. “Such a teacher would be no teacher at all.” And here Lincoln reveals an ontological fissure, one of the many things he does so well: the teachers never existed because they failed to meet the definition of teachers.

About Recommended Reading:

Great authors inspire us. But what about the stories that inspire them? Recommended Reading, a magazine by Electric Literature, publishes one story a week, each chosen by today’s best authors or editors.

More Like This

A Memoir About Divorcing the Patriarchy

Gina Frangello, author of “Blow Your House Down,” on how marriage, motherhood, and heteronormativity keep women boxed in

Jul 30 - Amy Reardon

Shadow and Bone Helped Me Combat My Imposter Syndrome

Alina Starkov is the opposite of Hermione Granger and Katniss Everdeen, and that’s a good thing

Jul 30 - Meera Vijayann

As My Vision Deteriorates, Every Word Counts

How losing my eyesight changed how and what I enjoy reading

Jul 29 - Alice Mattison
Thank You!