After lunch, Jonas and the other Twelves take their seats at the front of the room in the order of their numbers, which they were given at birth according to order of birth. Jonas is number 19, Asher is 4, and Fiona is 18.
Using numbers as an alternative to names is a way to strip babies of individuality and eliminate attachments that Nurturers might form to them.
The Chief Elder begins to announce the Assignments for Twelves. When it is Asher's turn, the Chief Elder laughingly mentions language mistakes Asher made. She recalls when Asher was three and confused the words "snack" and "smack." To teach him the difference, he was smacked with the "discipline wand" when he asked for a smack instead of a snack. This continued for weeks, until Asher stopped talking altogether for a little while. As everyone (including Asher) laughs, the Chief Elder comments that now Asher seldom makes such mistakes and announces that Asher has been made the Assistant Director of Recreation. Jonas is pleased that Asher received a job that fits him so well.
The Chief Elder's story and the audience's appreciative response to it show that in the community physical punishment is an acceptable teaching method, even if it causes trauma. (Asher's silence indicates that his did.) In a community that eliminates individuality, causing pain to someone seems like a small thing. And physical punishment is a way to teach a lesson quickly, to ensure that everyone learns at the same rate, eliminating difference.
The Chief Elder continues to give Assignments to the Elevens. When it is her turn, Fiona is assigned as Caretaker at the House of the Old, which Jonas knows she will enjoy. After each Assignment, the Chief Elder tells the assigned child, "Thank you for your childhood." This signifies that a child has become an adult.
In the community, the onset of adulthood is marked by a mass advancement of a group into the workforce. In our society, adulthood is marked by age and sexual development, which are individual milestones.
It is now Jonas's turn to receive an Assignment. But the Chief Elder skips Jonas and calls number 20. Jonas is terrified and wonders what he has done wrong. The crowd also is uneasy because the Chief Elder has made Jonas the object of attention.
By skipping Jonas, the Chief Elder singles him out. Jonas and the crowd are shocked because it's considered rude to call attention to an individual.