postheadericon The Animal School - A Recorded Fable About Schools

Here is a link forwarded to us by Maren Schmidt, who enjoyed the “Animal School” video which can be seen at .    This short production serves to remind of us of something we all know, but often forget – that each child is a unique human being.  It is clearly inspired by the poem “Animal School” which has been around for some time now, and appears to be in the public domain.


It was originally written by George Reavis, then Assistant Superintendent of Cincinnati Public Schools in 1939.  It has been recently republished as a full-color book by Crystal Springs Books and is available from Amazon.   This latest version has been dedicated to “those children and adults who have unjustly suffered the fate of standardized tests and inappropriate curriculum and standards”.

It is so easy to get caught up in a curriculum-driven agenda, particularly in the current climate of educational “accountability” and drive for standardized testing.  Schools need to prove to parents, the public at large and government bureaucracy that they are delivering the goods.  Often this happens at the expense of individual children who just don’t seem to fit the norm.  Standardized (but often overstuffed) programs are designed around what society at large, and particular interest groups argue, that all people need to know.  Unfortunately these agendas often fail to meet the real needs of any individual child, but are able to create an illusion of success by ensuring that at least the average achievement is acceptable.

The Montessori approach is not like the Animal School of the video or the essay at all, and it is imperative that we remind ourselves of this regularly.  I thought it might be fun to play around a little with the animal school idea and apply it to a Montessori environment.


Here is the original version:

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 had adopted an activity curriculum consisting of running, climbing, swimming and flying. To make it easier to administer the curriculum, all the animals took all the subjects.

The duck was excellent in swimming. In fact, better than his instructor. But he made only passing grades in flying and was very poor in running. Since he was slow in running, he had to stay after school and also drop swimming in order 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 work in swimming.

The squirrel was excellent in climbing until he developed frustration in the flying class where his teacher made him start from the ground up instead of the treetop down. He also developed a “charlie horse” from overexertion and then got a C in climbing and D in running.

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

At the end of the year, an abnormal eel that could swim exceeding well and 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 a badger and later joined the groundhogs and gophers to start a successful private school.

Does this fable have a moral?

Last Updated (Wednesday, 21 July 2010 12:05)