The Little Prince and the Teacher
'Good morning,' said the little prince.
'Speak in whole sentences,' ordered the teacher. 'You should say "I wish you a good morning." Say it slowly after me.'
'I wish you a good morning,' said the little prince, politely.
'That's right,' said the teacher, and took a small notebook out of his bag.
'What's that?' asked the little prince.
'I am giving you a good mark for good behaviour,' answered the teacher. 'Do you want to come to my school?'
'What would I have to do there?' asked the little prince.
'First you will have to take an ability test,' said the teacher.
'An ability test?' said the little prince. 'What is that?'
'It is a way of finding out whether you are capable of learning.'
'Learning for what?'
'That doesn't matter,' said the teacher. 'The important thing is that it must be something easy to measure.'
'All right, then,' said the little prince. 'Start testing me.'
The teacher gave the little prince a worksheet. 'Read through the text quietly and put crosses by the right answers,' he commanded.
'But,' said the little prince, 'I can't read.'
The teacher was indignant. 'You want to come to school and you can't read yet? What sort of pre-schooling have you had?'
'Pre-schooling? What is that?' the little prince enquired.
'Pre-schooling means that we pedagogues have discovered that it is necessary to teach children to read, calculate and think logically before they come to primary school, so that they don't have to start learning all that when they get there.'
'And what do people learn in primary school, then?' asked the little prince.
'The primary school,' said the teacher, 'builds on what was learnt in the pre-school and moves on to academic subjects. In that way it prepares for the secondary school. That means that we save a lot of time. What did you do in your pre-school time?'
'Playing is a waste of time,' said the teacher. 'Did you at least play educational games?'
'I don't know.' said the little prince. 'I did some painting, though. Would you like to see?" he asked, and showed the teacher his picture of the snake which has eaten an elephant.
'Well,' said the teacher, 'that is indeed the inclusion of elements in a set.'
'Elements of what? asked the little prince.
'Haven't you ever heard of set theory? You'll never get to university like that.'
The prince looked up enquiringly.
'Very well,' said the teacher, 'I will explain it to you. Pre-school prepares for primary school, primary school prepares for secondary school, secondary school prepares for university, university prepares for a career. Do you understand?'
'What does a career prepare you for?' asked the little prince.
'For a pension, of course.'
'And a pension?' asked the little prince.
'You are a terrible pest,' said the teacher. 'Those who have achieved something in their lifetime know how to make good use of their retirement, so that people will one day be able to say, over their graves, that they had had fulfilling lives.'
'Funny,' said the little prince. 'It seems to me that anyone who has always been being prepared has never had any time to live.'
'You haven't understood,' said the teacher, curtly. 'Tell me what you have achieved up until now. Have you at least acquired some knowledge of biology? What plants and animals do you know?'
'I have a rose on my planet,' said the little prince.
'There are many kinds of rose,' said the teacher. 'I have got a worksheet about roses. As you can't read, I will read it to you. Exercise 1. My rose is (a) an Easter rose (b) a tea-rose (c) a wild rose (d) a standard rose. Tick the right answer. Exercise 2: What chemical processes are involved when the rose is given fertiliser? You have a number of possible answers to choose from. Exercise 3: make a least five compound words starting with 'rose', such as rose-bud, rosewater . . .'
'My rose smells very good,' interrupted the little prince.
'A good smell is not an intellectual concept, it is difficult to measure and for that reason does not come in the curriculum,' declared the teacher.
'I like my rose,' said the little prince, 'and I am always wondering how I can protect it from the sheep on my planet.'
'Plant protection we will discuss in the chemistry lesson. You will see that it is very interesting.'
'And I enjoy my rose every day,' interposed the little prince.
'Enjoyment is an emotional reaction. It is not very important, but as far as I am concerned you can enjoy roses when the lesson is over. I will soon find a way to measure whether our enjoyment has any educational purpose.'
'But I don't only want to enjoy it when it is on your timetable,' said the little prince.
'Unfortunately we have no time for perpetual enjoyment. We would not be able to achieve our educational objectives,' said the teacher, bad-temperedly, 'and if we don't achieve them you will be unable to live a full life. We don't learn for the school, we learn for life.'
'You are right.' said the little prince. 'That is why I don't think your school is for me.' And he set off once again on his journey.
'Wait,' called the teacher. 'You have not yet heard how my didactical analysis proceeds and what other educational objectives I have foreseen: arithmetic with rosary beads in RI, examination of rose leaves under a microscope, singing Honeysuckle Rose, recognising the cadences in Sah ein Knab en Röslein steh'n, discussing customs and learning that Rose Monday is the day before Shrove Tuesday, learning to appreciate books by Rose Tremain . . .'
But the little prince did not hear any more, because he had hurried away, to avoid any more neu-roses.