Brandi Reads: The Berenstain Bears Lost In Cyberspace
The following is a recap of the book The Berenstain Bears: Lost in Cyberspace, published in 1999. It’s allegedly for children 8–10 years old. You’ll see why I say allegedly. This 112-page book starts out slowly but, whew, the end is pure madness and you’ll want to stick with all three parts of my write up.
I. The Kids Get Laptops
The teacher, aptly named Teacher Bob, explains to that laptop computers are called “laptops” because they’re small enough to sit on your lap. The class bully, Too-Tall Grizzly, has clear rules for what goes on his lap.
“The only thing allowed to sit on my lap is my girlfriend, Queenie,” said Too-Tall…Queenie turned and made a nasty face at Too-Tall. She and Too-Tall had an on-again, off-again thing that was off at the moment(4).”
This book is for children in third through fifth grade? How old are these cubs? When I was in third grade, a bunch of the popular kids in my class decided to start “dating” each other and had fake dating ceremonies during recess. My pretentious prep school found out about this and brought in a psychologist to talk to all the third graders.
I get the feeling that Too-Tall also says a lot of homophobic stuff that got omitted from the story. But he just seems like he would be very upset that words typed by boys are on a screen on his lap.
A reoccurring theme in the book is Teacher Bob ignoring the insane things his students say and just wanting them to shut up. These kids are exhausting.
Teacher Bob tells the cubs that they each have a laptop (and will each be getting a printer) because the class is part of an experiment by some rich guy.
Upon hearing this, Queenie McBear asks all the right questions.
“Who chose us to be guinea pigs in an experiment?” she asked. “My mom says cubs can’t be used in experiments without their parents permission.”
Teacher Bob smiled, “But Queenie, this isn’t a medical experiment or a psychology experiment,” he said. It’s just an ordinary school experiment. We do them all the time. Why, every time I try to teach you cubs something, it’s an experiment (5–6).”
Who is responsible? Squire Grizzly, Bonnie Brown’s uncle. He bought Bonnie a laptop. Since then, her grades had been going up and she was learning a lot inside and outside of school. Therefore, he’s sure that all the kids need laptops and everyone will be on their way to Brown Bear University or Williams Pawlege or Oxfurd University. Squire wanted to donate laptops and to the school and the principal, Mr. Honeycomb, agreed to a pilot program to determine if the whole school should get laptops.
Using your money to champion a project and then not really having an plan for implementation or consulting experts? Oh yeah, Squire is peak education philanthropist. One year at my prep school, someone donated a caboose to the playground. A full-size train car that we weren’t allowed to play in. It just sat there off the field we used to play touch football.
Shouldn’t parents know about this? Definitely. The internet at home is definitely their business. By the way, “Where are the parents?” will be a reoccurring question.
Is this experiment harmless? Ordinary school experiments can be psychological experiments. Can someone please get the Bear Country internal review board over to this school, stat. Every time you teach students it’s an experiment? Do you just 100% wing it every year? That’s cool that you’re not teaching to a test but…whew boy, how long have you been in the teacher game?
But maybe we all need to stop asking so many questions. Squire Grizzly’s rich niece with support at home got a laptop and now she has good grades, so just give all the kids laptops. Done and done. Fixing American education seems super easy. I’m going to open a charter school.
Across the room, Brother Bear finally has some answers about why Bonnie, his crush, has been so distant.
Oh, lost in cyberspace the title of the book! She’s just not into you, buddy. She’s not lost but she might have even found a new boyfriend, a polar bear in Canada.
Teacher Bob goes on to explains that the internet is called the Information Super Highway but then Ferdy, the nerdy cub corrects him.
“I feel that I must point out to you,” said Ferdy…“that hardly anyone calls it the Information Superhighway anymore. The new term is cyberspace.”
“All right, Ferdy,” said Teacher Bob. “Then cyberspace it is. Now, if you’ll all open your laptops, we’ll blast off (15).”
Teacher Bob has the patience of a saint.
Getting On The Internet
At home, Brother tries to get online be he doesn’t know how so he calls Harry, the computer whiz. At first he can’t get through because everyone is calling Harry for help. He assumes because others are calling Harry but, I, a 90's kid, know it’s because Harry was on the internet.
Buckle up, I have some questions.
How the hell did these kids get on the internet? Was there a service? It’s 1999, so this is dial-up. How aren’t the parents yelling for these kids to get off the phone line? Do the parents even know why a printer showed up at their house earlier in the day? Why didn’t Teacher Bob explain to the kids how to get on the internet before they left school. Queenie McBear’s mom is going to be steamed!
At one point an “email” pops up on the screen from Teacher Bob, reminding the cubs to do their homework.
They know it is from Teacher Bob because he signs it with his web address: www.teacherbob.edu. Look, I’m going to be honest with you, no one was learning much about how the internet worked in this book.
The cubs hang out in chatrooms that are actually message boards/chatrooms. Too-Tall hangs out in The Macho chatroom. The Macho chatroom is a place for cubs to trade bullying tips. It’s probably been shut down several times in recent years by bear authorities. Meanwhile, Brother Bear ignores his sister’s pleas for homework help to hang out on sports chatrooms.
Throughout the book, the cubs are encouraged to consider whether the internet is good or bad. Spoiler alert: it’s both. Teacher Bob ends the experiment after realizing that computers help good students be good students and bad students continue being bad students. He and Principal Honeycomb decide not to expand the program.
Squire Grizzly is upset that because he paid a lot of money to donate those laptops. You know, the ones that no one asked him to donate. The ones that he agreed would be part of a pilot program that may or may not go forward. Unable to grasp the economic principle of ignoring sunk costs, Squire tries another tactic.
He concern trolls Teacher Bob. But what about the children?! They’ll be so disappointed! Teacher Bob, not here for Squire’s bullshit basically says, “Welp.” He then suggests that Squire trade the laptops in for desktop computers in a lab for all the students to use.
Squire Grizzly agrees to this plan because he’s probably going to try to run more experiments on students before opening a bullshit charter school across town.
Onward to Part II: A Catfishing To Remember!