The Fly on the Wall

Jan G. Hogle

University of Georgia

The Fly on the Wall

There once was a fly, and he lived in a hall
inside a school building (not far from the mall).
This fly rarely said much, and he wasn't well-read,
but he saw a great deal, and he heard what was said.
The people ignored him, and they followed that rule
on the day they discussed what to do with their school.

A meeting was held in the school cafeteria.
The whole town was there, on the verge of hysteria!
The national test scores had just been reported
and rather low scores for this town were recorded.
The school board was there, and the mayor, and the teachers.
The parents were, too; they overflowed in the bleachers.

"We've failed in our schools. Something has to be done!"
They all shouted and spit! (Well, except for the nun.)
The blame was all thrown from one group to another.
"The shame of it all! We must quickly recover!"

The Mayor proclaimed, in her political way,
that the scores would be doubled by the next testing day.
"Our results are disgraceful! We have to compete,
to be just as good as the town up the street!
Our teachers will work twice as hard as before
to raise every child's score just that little bit more."

The teachers weren't sure that they were agreeing.
This wasn't exactly the school they'd like seeing.
They talked about theory, about radical schools.
They talked about buying the students new tools.

The parents demurred, and they found themselves mumbling
that the cost of it all would be terribly humbling.
"Let's get rid of the frills like PE and music.
They don't add to our scores, so why should we use it?
Let's return to the basics of reading and math.
We have, after all, only just so much cash."

Then it was time for the school board to speak.
They argued and fussed on into next week.
"This talk of new theory, what good does it do?
Traditional teaching is what kids need from school.
We got into this hole because of your messing
with traditional school and theoretical guessing."

"We don't have time or other resources
to give each child attention or hear each one's voices.
Students don't need tools, they need to be taught,
to be harped at and beaten with serious thoughts.
Traditional methods are what we've found best
and we think we'll do better to teach to the test."

Then the nun had her say, she was unusually sour.
She looked down at the townspeople from her ivory tower.
She said that she knew why the scores were not met:
It was all cuz the kids surfed porn on the Net.

"You allow all your kids to see stuff they should not.
You must keep things from them, or their minds will just rot!
These scores are an omen of bad things to come!
Your kids can't decide for themselves-they're too dumb!"

"Oh no," said the fly to himself on the wall.
"This is wrong. It won't work! Oh, it won't do at all!"
But not a soul heard him. No one saw he was there.
And they kept on pretending they could see what was where.

The fly muttered and grumbled and thought it all through,
then he finally decided he knew what to do.
He flew from the wall and went into the meeting.
He told them his thoughts on the schools and its meaning:

"Excuse me," he said, not pretentious at all,
"I've been listening to you, from up there on my wall...
And as to your theories, you seem somewhat confused.
It's the practical aspect of life that's best used."

"I know you need theory to help you all think
but you've forgotten some basic philosophical ink.
The basis of theory is that it should be found
to be shaped by experience, not the other way round."

"You can't use just one theory in school education
and expect it to fit every child in the nation.
If you want all your children's education to prosper,
find out each child's needs, what learning to foster."

"I know it's expensive, I know it takes time!
But what is the cost of not heeding these lines?
You believe that your schools are falling apart,
that your children are failing, and they need a jump start."

"Why not listen to me? I have something to say.
Why ignore me again, as you do every day?
You can't keep the things that you disagree with
away from your children, it becomes a behemoth.
Ideas are like viruses, you must inoculate
your children from hearing what you think's not great."

"I hear your concerns about porn on the Web
and the sex education that you seem to dread.
What makes you so sure ideas are confined
if you refuse to allow your children online?
Information's not dangerous, it's lack of it that's so
problematic in keeping your children from growth."

"I know that you're worried about those test scores,
and you think that your kids will end up sweeping floors.
Intelligence is often too narrowly stated.
Those tests just don't show how life skills are equated.
Verbal and math are essential to function
but there's more to success than school's usual assumptions."

"Social concepts and music and physical skills
should be thought of as more than just trivial frills.
If you don't give your children these basics in schools,
your society will fail, as a nation of fools!"

"And where is it written that good learning occurs
when children are forced to sit on bell curves?
I have trouble understanding your obsession with grades.
Shouldn't you strive to give all students A's?"

"Believing your students must be compared to each other
is ignoring the goals and objectives you mutter.
Ranking of students is an archaic convention.
All should be helped toward those goals that you mention."

"Learning is better in between two extremes
of structured instruction and constructivist themes.
Too much structure in learning fails to get kids to ponder,
but they need some direction to avoid aimless wander."

"Seek out more ways to give power to students.
Teach them to learn and develop good prudence.
Encourage your children in responsible roles
as learners and thinkers and seekers of goals."

"The most important objective is not what you test on,
To learn how to learn is the ultimate lesson."
The fly took a breath and he looked all around.
He wondered what to make of the numerous frowns.

The people had heard him, they saw he was there.
They heard his ideas and his cries of despair.
"You are only a fly," they said. "A fly on the wall!
You have no degree! No credentials at all!"

"You think you can say what to do with our schools?
What would you know? Do you take us for fools?"
And they all looked around and agreed what to do.
Then they got a flyswatter and squashed him to goo.

The End.

ITFORUM PAPER #57 - The Fly on the Wall by Jan G. Hogle. Posted on ITFORUM on December 9, 2001. The author retains all copyrights of this work. Used on ITFORUM by permission of the author. Visit the ITFORUM WWW Home Page at