it’s been thirteen long years since Rick Galloway was shanghaied and carted away by a flying saucer to the planet Tran, where humans were both administrators and slaves. Since then, he’s survived mutinies, civil wars, battles against Byzantine Romans, medieval knights, and Mongol raiders. Now, things are about to change yet again. New Starmen have arrived on Tran with dangerous gifts and star weapons none have faced before. Rick Galloway’s mission on Tran is about to be turned on its head. But there is one thing that hasn’t changed in thirteen long years: when all goes sideways, it’s Rick Galloway who gets called upon to fix the situation.
16 year old Rick Luban finally plays a practical joke on the wrong person, and is expelled from his useless school. The fact that no-one is allowed to be a failure has reached its illogical conclusion: the whole curriculum is so watered down that no-one learns anything. But Rick gets a second chance, to join an asteroid mining company as a trainee. Now he gets some real education, in a hostile environment where a mistake can mean death.
This is a deliberate, and not that bad, attempt at a Heinleinesque juvenile, coupled with a savage attack on the US educational system, 'political correctness' and lack of discipline. The political message is laid on with a trowel.
The plot is typical of its kind: we see Rick and his classmates grow from semi-literate surly thugs to hard-working apprentices, learning both how to learn, and the value of learning, on the way. And, of course, there's the obligatory little plot twist to enliven the action at the end. We've seen this before, in Heinlein's Have Space Suit, Will Travel, and Space Cadet --- although Higher Education has a more up-to-date level of sex and violence, more unpleasant protagonists, and rather less polished info-dumping.