Here Be Dragons: A Parable of Learning


Once upon a telling, a score of young adventurers set sail on adventure across the wide seas. They had a wise ol' captain and an ultimate destination, but they would each take turns to steer the good ship Learning by their own stars and towards their own discoveries. Most often, the captain's role was simply to ensure that the ship moved forward and avoided any danger. And to find destinations he knew they would love to explore.

They would stop at many strange and interesting places, whereupon the adventurers would go their own way, in groups or alone, to explore and make their own discoveries. And upon their return, they would regale the captain and their fellow travelers with stories of what they'd found out. Some would fail in their tasks, but they would still learn and they would try again at the next destination.

Yes, there were many challenges at sea, but they had the determination and courage to face them and conquer them.

Even the frightening first Sea Dragon of Failure was conquered once they figured out that to beat it, they simply had to reimagine it. They scooped Failure up and kept it as a pet. And it never bothered them again.


But then things changed. A dark squall appeared, the waves grew and the wind howled. The twin storms named Syllabus and Exam were upon them. They hunkered down and watched and readied themselves to weather the storm – armed only with the magic of Superficial Learning and a smelly coat of Rigor.

After the storm had passed, things were different. They skies remained grey and the sun remained hidden. They no longer had the desire to steer the ship, they were less enthusiastic to make their own discoveries, and they left it to the captain to steer the ship the rest of the way. They had only the end port of Grades on their mind.

And when they saw the mysterious beast called The Curiosity, they steered the good ship Learning directly at it, and killed it, never even bothering to look astern to see what it was. They tried to avoid the other sea dragons, but they were not always successful, and they did lose some of their crew to the nasty beasts.

And the 'ol captain was powerless to get them back to their former spirits.

Instead of scouting for new lands and new adventures, the crew, now many years older, sat below deck, infected with the scurvy of homework.

What had started out as such a wonderful journey of adventure ended in sullen silence, boredom and a general feeling of resentment. They disembarked vowing never to take the journey again. And as they watched, a new crew bounced aboard, bright-eyed and energetic, shouting enthusiastically while exploring the ship, all ready for their years long journey. To where? They knew not, nor did they care.

And the 'ol captain, pipe in mouth, bent over his charts, trying for all he was worth to plot a course to steer clear of storms and dragons. And if you listened closely you would hear him mumble something over and over to himself. And here's what he was saying:

“Next time, it will be better. I have to make it better.”



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