Do you mind if I chop off your legs?


Prokrustes

This is one of the problems working in education. We keep trying to cut off people’s legs. Or their heads.

What do I mean? Here’s a quick story:

A long time ago, in Greek mythology, there was rogue smith and bandit who lived along the way to Athens named Procrustes.

He’d lure in guests with the promise of a nice meal and night’s rest in his very special bed.

Procrustes described the bed as having the unique property that its length exactly matched whomsoever lay down upon it.

But the problem was that nobody ever actually fit the bed exactly.

So after the meal, Procrustes would set to work on his guests with his smith’s hammer.

If they were too short for the bed, he’d stretch them. And if they were too long, he’d cut off the excess length.

Fortunately, the story has a hero and something of a semi-happy ending.

Theseus, who was the mythical founder of Athens, was on his way to Athens when he also was stopped by Procrustes.

After a fine meal, Procrustes tried to get Theseus to lie down on his iron bed.

Luckly though, Theseus had already been tipped off about his host’s intentions.

And instead he tricked Procrustes into lying in his own bed and gave him a dose of his own medicine.

I’m not suggesting a similar solution for dealing with things that are broken in the education system…

However, I would like to suggest that what we need are more heroes. And if you’re up for the challenge, here’s the first task

  • Any time you spot a Procrustean bed, point it out.

And to avoid the blank stares, you’ll probably have to tell the story. But I think you’ll remember it.

 

2 thoughts on “Do you mind if I chop off your legs?

    • Hi Erin. Thanks. I’m going to as well. You’ve probably guessed but (and its not a perfect solution) this was what was in my mind when I approached the TEC with a portfolio approach to assessment for ESOL teachers. Looking forward to meeting you and the team.

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