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Saturday November 18th 2023

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Books By Linda Dobson ArtofEdCover Books By Linda Dobson learning-coach-approach

The Animal School

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If I ever have a headstone – which I really don’t want – it will have to be a big one because, if I were to have one, I would like the following engraved on it. Yes, “The Animal School” is so short to read, yet so powerful in its simplicity, I could entice passers-by to stop just long enough to read, thereby continuing advocacy long after I’m laid to rest. I can think of many worse legacies. Ladies and gentlemen, for your enjoyment and enlightenment, I share again “The Animal School” by R. H. Reeves, Educator.

The Animal School Valedictorian

The Animal School Valedictorian

Once upon a time, the animals decided they must do something heroic to meet the problems of a “New World,” so they organized a school. They adopted an activity curriculum consisting of running, climbing, swimming, and flying. To make it easier to administer, all animals took all subjects.

The duck was excellent in swimming, better in fact than his instructor, and made excellent grades in flying, but he was very poor in running. Since he was low in running he had to stay after school and also drop swimming to practice running. This was kept up until his webbed feet were badly worn, and he was only average in swimming. But average was acceptable in school, so nobody worried about that except the duck.

The rabbit started at the top of the class in running but had a nervous breakdown because of so much makeup in swimming.

The squirrel was excellent in climbing until he developed frustrations in the flying class where his teacher made him start from the ground up instead of from the tree-top down. He also developed charley horses from over-exertion, and he got a “C” in climbing and a “D” in running.

The eagle was a problem child and had to be disciplined severely. In climbing class he beat all the others to the top of the tree but insisted on using his own way of getting there.

At the end of the year, an abnormal eel that could swim exceedingly well and could also run, climb and fly a little had the highest average and was valedictorian.

The prairie dogs stayed out of school and fought the tax levy, because the administration would not add digging and burrowing to the curriculum. They apprenticed their children to the badger and later joined the groundhogs and gophers to start a successful private school.

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4 Responses to “The Animal School”

  1. Ann Lahrson Fisher says:

    "The Animal School" is a powerful classic. Many years ago – about 10 years BIDH (before I discovered homeschooling) – a mimeographed copy of this piece was passed along to teachers in the elementary school where I taught. We all agreed enthusiastically with the truth of the tale. We had heard John Holt speak to teachers on the topics of how children learn and fail. We heard about free schools and we longed for a better environment for our kids. By golly, we would change our ways and our students would thrive!

    Alas – who knew change could be so difficult? We tried to individualize learning for our students – imagine teaching 30+ students on 30+ individualized plans! Most teachers burned out and resigned or went back to the traditional approach. One brave teacher installed a Sudbury-ish environment in his classroom – which got him fired. I eventually left teaching to follow my homeschooling heart. "The Animal School" informed that decision.

    This piece should be required reading by every parent and every school board in the country.

  2. Thanks so much for sharing your story, Ann, and validating how important a message such a little story carries.

    Your last comment gave me an idea we could shoot for in the holiday season of 2010 – a group effort of tucking this little story inside a greeting card to school boards across the country…let's keep this in the back of our minds and touch base on it again in a few months…mmmm.

  3. Ann Lahrson Fisher says:

    Great idea, Linda!

  4. Hi Linda,

    Thanks for sharing this story. I'd never seen it before and will now share it with all.



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