Titus isn’t a good student in School™. School™ is better than it was when it was controlled by the government, he claims. Now that School™ is run by corporations, students learn useful lessons about products. Corporations run schools, Titus claims, because “it’s an investment in tomorrow.”
In School™, Titus thinks about Violet, who stays home and reads about how “there was less air and everything was getting toxic.” The news is bad, even though it’s “asked to be a little more positive.” Violet realizes that the world hates America for what it’s doing. Sometimes, Titus gets annoyed with Violet when she talks politics. He’s also embarrassed when Violet notes that only 73 percent of Americans have feeds—Titus didn’t realize there were so many who didn’t. Violet explains that she didn’t get her feed until the age of seven. Feeds, she claims, have turned the country into “a nation of ignorant, self-centered idiots.”
Violet is more aware of global affairs than Titus, and so she’s more aware that the world is becoming a chaotic, dangerous place, in part thanks to the United States and its corporations. Titus is exiting his “bubble,” with Violet’s help: he’s becoming aware of how different his lifestyle is from the lifestyles of others (and, implicitly, how privileged he is).
That night, Titus comes home and asks his mom whether she thinks he is dumb. Mom tells him he’s “a wonderful boy,” and asks Steve (Titus’s dad) to agree. Steve says, “as handsome as a duck in butter.”
Titus senses that he’s not that smart, but his parents refuse to criticize him in any way. This could be seen as the novel’s satire of the “well-being” parenting movement, the implication being that indiscriminate encouragement just encourages more mediocrity.
The next day, Titus flunks a test while Violet stays home and learns about interesting, complicated things Titus can’t understand. At home, Titus’s mom hugs him and says, “You’re just what we asked for.” She goes on to explain that he has the chin and dimples of DelGlacey Murdoch, an actor who Mom and Dad thought would become a star. After watching one of his films, Mom and Dad went to the “conceptionarium” and asked for a child that looked just like him. Dad explains, nervously, that DelGlacey didn’t become a big star.
Instead of trying to encourage their son to work harder and learn something, Titus’s parents shower him in unearned praise. In the future, we learn, people can design their children to look like celebrities—although Titus’s image-obsessed dad is visibly ashamed of the fact that they chose someone who turned out to be a B-list celebrity.
Titus can sense that his parents are getting uncomfortable because they’re chatting with each other. Suddenly, they tell Titus that they’re buying him a present—his own upcar. Titus is overjoyed. He cries, “You are like the best mom and dad ever!” Suddenly, he doesn’t feel so stupid.
Titus has no incentive to study hard and learn something, because his parents shower him with gifts that he hasn’t earned.
In an interlude, reporters explain that President Trumbull didn’t mean to insult the Prime Minister of the Global Alliance by calling him a “big shithead.” Supposedly, the President was using an American idiom to say that the Prime Minister has a “fertile mind.” The speaker adds that America will take any attempts to withdraw the Alliance’s presence from American soil as a sign of ill will.
The United States’ relationship with the rest of the world becomes strained as the President—evidently not the most articulate politician in the world—has an angry outburst. The interlude reminds readers that the global political situation is growing more and more tense every day.