Higher Education (novel)

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Higher Education
Author Charles Sheffield and Jerry Pournelle
Country United States
Language English
Series Jupiter series
Genre Science fiction
Publisher Tor Books
Publication date
Media type Print (Paperback & Hardback)
ISBN 0-312-86174-5
OCLC 34029753
Dewey Decimal 813/.54 20
LC Class PS3569.H39253 H54 1996

Higher Education is a 1995 science fiction novel by Charles Sheffield and Jerry Pournelle. It is the first in a series, published by Tor Books in their Jupiter line.

Plot introduction[edit]

The novel starts in a future dystopian earth where the United States has become a woefully inefficient bureaucratized nation. The public school system is primarily interested in promoting self-esteem rather than learning. For example, the vast majority of public high school graduates are illiterate, and end up in "the pool"; an endless crowd of unemployable youths depending on government assistance or crime for survival. The book is told from the perspective of the main character, a high school student named Rick who quickly finds himself expelled after a practical joke goes wrong.

Plot summary[edit]

Since expulsion means that Rick's family will no longer be able to claim their welfare bonus, Rick begins looking for a job. One of his former teachers encourages him to get a job for the Vanguard Mining corporation, whose primary financial interest is in space mining of asteroids in the asteroid belt. The book follows his progress through an initial grueling examination period on Earth, initial training on an asteroid in a high orbit of Earth, and through an apprenticeship on another training facility in the asteroid belt. After proving himself, Rick is recruited to join a secret program to infiltrate and subvert Earth's education systems away from its current initiative-deadening pandering to the lowest common denominator.


  • "Rick" is the primary protagonist of the novel. He is a high-school student who is forced to take a job mining asteroids after being expelled from school.
  • "Turkey Gossage" is Rick's instructor on the asteroid in Earth orbit. He is tough, unforgiving and unyielding.

Authors Message[edit]

Much of the book is a thinly veiled criticism against current public policy concepts like centralization, socialism, federally managed education, and cultural attitudes about individual responsibility, particularly concerning children and young adults. The novel has a distinctly libertarian tone, which is typical of both Sheffield and Pournelle's work, and certainly a common theme throughout speculative sci-fi in general.