When I was growing up I used to hear some brilliant comedy sketches on the radio. One of my favourite ones was by Bob Newhart and concerned an imaginary telephone call from Sir Walter Rayleigh to a Government official in L0mdon.Now I know that the telephone hadn’t been invented yet.. but we were willing to suspend belief and that made the comedy even greater and Newhart managed to bring out the inherent stupidity of getting some tobacco leaves and then rolling them up and putting them into a piece of paper and then setting fire to them! (To see Newhart deliver the original sketch go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i7YBaiJMnik&feature=related )
I had a thought the other day when this brilliant sketch came swimming back into my consciousness (having laid dormant in the back of my mind for too many years). What would Sir Walt had said to the official about schools?
So, with deep respect and thanks to Mr Newhart, here is my take on the impossible phone call from the New World about schools.
Official: Hi Walt what have you got to tell us about this time? Oh something called schools..we have those things here Walt a few lazy aristocrats sons get beaten to a pulp by clerics and they spend all day learning Euclid and quoting passages from the Bible in Latin.
Oh, this is different.. they get all the kids to go to something called a school…. what girls as well? Oh well. They go to a great big place with loads of little box rooms and they always work with children of their own age. There is a non-clerical person who is the font of all knowledge and he or she is called the teacher and they stand in front and the children receive the wisdom.
What kind of wisdom Walt? Oh to spell correctly (that boy Shakespeare who works at the theatre down the road.. he can’t even spell his name!) to read and to write and to do really good arithmetic. It’s called the “3 R’s” is it? and that is?
Reading, Writing and Arithmetic… I can only see one R there Walt but what do I know? They can paint a bit and jump around in a hall it’s called Physical Exercise.
They are tested all the time… tests, tests, and more tests and if they’re not good enough we can put them in something called a bottom set. What do they do there Walt?
They d0 pretty pictures and they make paper aeroplanes and the teachers go mad and say that they are idiots and won’t achieve anything
We pay the teachers according to results and if their children don’t come up to scratch we fire them.
And what does all this “school” thing produce? A really able workforce ready to compete with the rest of the world! I see Walt…… let’s go back to setting fire to the leaves in the little piece of paper shall we?