This is the first of a series of tales about Alice returning to the Looking Glass World of Education. Apologies to Lewis Carroll for pinching his characters, and for mixing up characters from two books. There are two more chapters on this website and no doubt, there will be more to follow. Hopefully they will provide a different view on some of the assumed truths in our schools.
Actually, last night I had an idea for a different format for these reflections. We were talking about Gordon Ramsey of all people, and a Swedish friend mentioned his series where he goes into failing restaurants and swears at the owners and managers about their incompetence. I suggested a similar series for schools might be a good idea, with our Gordon going in and questioning them, in his inimitable style, about whether they are actually doing what they claim and how. One day I will write a script for the first episode of “Hell’s Staffroom”, but for now you have to make do with Alice and her friends.
Alice in Education Land 1
Alice Gets a Job
Alice was feeling drowsy as she sat on the sofa in the living room. While the weather was inhospitable and cold outside, the warmth of the fire had a soporific effect as she looked at the mirror above the fire and remembered her past adventures as a 6 year old girl. Of course she was much older now, and was a confident and knowledgeable adult because she had been through Education. She always wondered whether to write the word education with a capital E or a small one. Capital E Education made her think of the systems and institutions that she had been through from kindergarten and school to university and college. It meant the names of the courses, the way they organised and, of course, the qualifications that she had gained, which were now framed on the wall just next to the looking glass. education with a small e meant something different to her. It summed up what she had actually learned, what she knew and what she could do, how she understood the world and the skills she brought to bear on the bits she did not yet understand. The mystery was why these two seemed so different to each other, and why there seemed to be so little connection between the two. Two other words sprung to her mind as she reflected on her learning, and she knew that all good learners should reflect. She has been told that many times. The two other words were “because” and “despite”. They seemed almost interchangeable in so many sentences, which left her even more confused than before. Did she learn because of school or despite it, because of exams or despite them, because of teachers or despite them? It was at that point she resolved to get to the bottom of the problem, using all the talents her education had given her. In short, she would find out whether she had gained an education because of her Education or despite it. The opportunity came sooner than she might have dreamed.
It grew colder in the living room for reasons that Alice could not quite explain, for the windows were closed and the fire still blazed. Yet, there seemed to be a breeze springing up, and coming from the fire. No, not from the fire, from the looking glass above the fire. There was something born on the wind, fluttering in the air. A piece of paper? A letter? Yes it was a letter and it floated through the glass into the sitting room to land on Alice’s lap. It looked formal as it had a crest on it, but the only writing that it bore were the two words “Open me”.
Alice had learnt before that interesting things can happen when you follow enigmatic instructions so she opened the letter. It was from the office of the Red Queen.
I am pleased to say that your application for a post as a teacher in Wonderland has been successful. You are now appointed as teacher of the Pawns with immediate effect. Please report for school this very afternoon for you training and professional development.
I am sure you are looking forward to working in our fine establishment.
pp Red Queen
Alice wasn’t sure she ever remembered applying for such a job, which she found a little strange. It turned out to be one of the least strange things she discovered in the Wonderland of Education.