"Evolutionary success ... is going to absolutely require mobility on, at a minimum, an interplanetary scale. We either go or we die out."
In the story, Margie has a mechanical teacher in her house, like every child old enough to need schooling. She must present homework in a particular form so the machine can read it and grade her work.
Punch cards or tape have been in use for a long time; the Hollerith 1890 census tabulator is a famous example. Most students today are familiar with the Scantron system, which combines machine-readable test papers with a reader/tabulator. I don't know how old mechanical test grading is.
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