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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 19, Number 5, March 2007

The purple fruit-picking parable

Statureland is an island nation with one major industry: purple fruit. Since purple-fruit picking is essential to the welfare of the whole society, the Statureland schools’ basic curriculum is intended to train effective purple fruit pickers.

Because purple fruit grows only at the top of eight-foot trees, the most important and critical course within the curriculum has been Growing. All children are required to take Growing, and they are expected to complete six feet of growth—the minimum criterion for graduation as purple-fruit pickers and the average height of Staturelandians, based upon standardized growing tests.

The course content of Growing includes stretching, reaching, jumping, tiptoeing, and thinking tall.

Each year, each child’s skill and abilities in growing are assessed, and each child assigned a grade. Those children who achieve average scores on the standardized growing test are assigned B and C grades. Students, who, through their commitment to growing, exceed expected levels, receive As.

Slow growing students receive Fs and are regularly and publicly admonished for their lack of effort and inattention to the primary task. These latter children often develop poor self-images and antisocial behaviour that disrupts the school program and interferes with children who really want to grow.

"This will never do!" said the people. "We must call a wise man to consider our problem and tell us how to help the children grow better and faster and become happy purple fruit pickers."

So a wise man was sent for and he studied the problem. At last, he suggested two solutions:

  1. Plant pink fruit trees that grow only five feet tall, so that even four-foot students may be successful pickers. 
  2. Provide ladders so that all students who wish to pick purple fruit can reach the tops of the trees.

"No, no, no!" said the people. "This will never work. How can we then give grades if eight-foot trees are goals for some students and five-foot trees are goals for other students? How can it be fair to the naturally tall students if children on ladders can also stand six feet tall and reach the purple fruit! However shall we give grades?"

"Ah," said the wise man, "you can’t. You must decide whether you want to grade children or have fruit picked."

Reprinted from CCPA Education Monitor, Fall 1998.


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