Child against child. Teacher against teacher. School against school. We are creating a dog eat dog world.
In Julia Donaldson’s The Snail and the Whale, a tiny snail hitches a lift around the world on the back of a mighty whale. The whale is huge; the snail is tiny. The whale can swim through the oceans of the world. The snail is stuck on a rock in the bay, until the whale offers her a ride. In the context of a whale, the snail feels tiny, and more than a little useless. Together they form a bond as they travel the world, marveling at its wonders. And then one day, the whale gets beached in a bay. For all his power, and size, and speed, there is nothing he can do to get back into the sea. It is now that the snail comes into her own, for it is the snail who saves the whale, by scrawling a silvery trail on a classroom blackboard, saying Save the Whale. The reader suddenly understands that for all her tiny size, lack of strength and limited power, the snail is courageous enough to save her mighty friend. For all the snail’s apparent insignificance, it is only through the power of friendship and courage and collaboration that the mighty whale can survive.
We are creating a dog eat dog system of education, in which the strongest and the most efficient gain all the power. We are creating a toxic atmosphere in which we measure human being against human being, to decide which one is best or which can earn the most. This, we are told, is a global race. There is no place for the weak, or the slow, or the inefficient. All must compete to survive. There is no way that snail would win in the global race. She is small, and slow and weak. But by demonstrating the power of friendship, and collaboration, and courage, that snail can teach us all a lesson. We should not be trying to create a dog eat dog world, but instead one in which we can proudly say … Child alongside child. Teacher alongside teacher. School alongside school. We are all in this together.