The Animal School: A Fable

I do not know if you are familiar with this fable, but in this age of extreme rivalry among schools, I have decided to share this with you, and especially to the young parents, who sometimes forget that not every child can be what the parents want him/her to be.

In its desire to corner large enrollment, schools try to make it appear that it has programs and a curriculum-driven agenda that could make a big difference in your kid’s study and future.

But, does it really?

We just have to be reminded that it isn’t so – because each child is a unique human being. Some make it, others fail, and with adverse consequences sometimes – if pushed further.

The Animal School was originally written by George Reavis, then Assistant Superintendent of Cincinnati Public Schools in 1939. 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”.


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?


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