Friday, January 30, 2009

A cautionary tale

King Ceanothus ruled the land and declared himself the Learner. He decreed all other children shall become learners, too.

And the people rejoiced!

"We must learn them everything!"

So the children were taught this and the children were taught that, then that, and some more of this. This and that and that and this.

And the children took the National This and That Learner test and...gasp...most of them failed!

King Ceonathus thought and thought--why he knew a "this." And he knew a "that." He thought and thought and thought some more.

Towers fell, and poppies grew, but the King continued his thinking of this and of that.

"We shall teach them more this and thats! We will raise this this bar and that that bar, and they will pass!"

And the people rejoiced.

And now the children did double this and double that. They called a this a triple this that, and a that a triple that this! Oh, they learned and learned and learned some more!

The children then took the International National This and That Learner Exam, upgraded and revised and validated at much expense and stamped with the Official Seal of the Land of Ceanothus.
And they failed again--except in the district of Here and There.

"Oh, Super Supers of the Here and There, how did you do it?"
the people asked.

We dipped them in lard, had them stand on their heads,
Made them study real hard, fed them bennies and reds,
We stapled and folded and creased without end
Our methods are valid, we've got proof can defend

The key to success is to put Thissing First
And now our children are no longer the worst.
We are the Miracle in Houston, the success in Chicago
We even topped scores of some school in Wells Fargo.

(But hear's the real sekrit, come listen and learn
We gave them the answers, left no test unturned
If the test is the point, why bother with facts
We gave them the keys, our students relaxed

We give each a scantron, the dots clearly bubbled
Then they filled out another, completely untroubled
Using authentic skills learned in the finest of schools
Now the students are ready to be corporate tools.

So each district bought the Thissing First program, a billion dollars was spent. The kids were drugged and dipped in lard and forced to study without end the thisses and thats and the thats and the thisses.

A month before the Interplanetary Universal This and That Plus Learner Exam, upgraded and revised and validated at great expense and stamped with the Official Seal of the Universe, each child meticulously bubbled their own individualized scantron--some used crayons, some Play Doh, some used ink, and a few traditionalists still fumbled with Dixon Oriole Number 2 pencils. The people were pleased to see that the new education recognized different learning styles.

And every child passed (except a few in Gotham who refused to play) but that's OK, because "all" means 97%.

And the people rejoiced.

The End

Scantron image from Greene County Public Library.


Clay burell said...


It's my favorite so far. (Can I suggest "completely untroubled" to rhyme with "bubbled," though? asked the poetasting English teacher.)

Fantastic piece, Michael. (Maybe "dollars" should be changed to something more whimsical to match the rest of the tale, the obnoxious artist manque opined.)

What a great read, seriously. I wish more bloggers would leave the expository to make the same points so differently. Glad you did, anyway.

(And yes, I'm catching up on my reading. You really don't want to know upon what I sit as I do. A throne unworthy of this piece, he hinted.)

Clay Burell said...

By the way - where'd you get the prosody skills? School, or the ineffable? First rate.

doyle said...

Thanks for responding! I liked this one, too, and wondered why it wandered off into orphanhood.

I like the "completely untroubled," thanks! (The rhythm works much better with yours.) So now the ditty belongs to both of us. Tweak away!

(The dollars is still there for a couple of reasons--mostly because I keep thinking clams, and they're too easy to use here, and I'd like to use a made-up fun word, and second, I am still steaming over the money spent on Reading First!)

As far as prosody "skills", I am flattered but not fooled. Whatever the quality, I can throw things like that fast, I think a side effect of growing up with questionable hearing.

With my slight deafness, I live in a world of vowels--I have to reconstruct possible sentences in my head pretty much every time I try to talk to someone. After 45 years or so of doing this, my brain's pretty good at coming up with similar sounding phrases on the fly.

(True story--a student who prided himself on freestyle rap took me on. I schooled him. I happened to be really on that day, he was a little nervous (I came to class with my best gangsta threads), and the rest is history.)

Clay Burell said...

I googled Ceanothus, and wasn't disappointed.