• The Walls of Jericho

    The Minister of Education, Hekia Parata, recently visited a primary school in a rural area. She spent some time with a class of nine year-olds and was impressed with how much they knew.
    Thinking to test them out, she turned towards the end of the lesson to a bright young boy and asked him a question. “Who was it who brought down the walls of Jericho?”
    The boy looked uncertain. After a moment, he blurted out, “I don’t know Miss.”
    The Minister decided to encourage him to think about it a little further. “Are you sure you don’t know?” she asked.
    The boy suddenly burst into tears and said through his sobs, “It wasn’t me. It wasn’t me.”
    The Minister was amused and mentioned the incident to the class teacher at the end of the lesson. The teacher became somewhat defensive and said, “Jimmy is a very well-behaved boy. I’m sure he wouldn’t do a thing like that – and if he says he didn’t do it, I believe him.”
    Hekia Parata was a little nonplussed, and decided to raise the matter with the principal as she left. She recounted the story and was about to inquire about the teacher’s ability when the principal responded firmly, “Miss Jones is a very experienced and reliable teacher. If she says Jimmy didn’t do it, then he didn’t do it.”
    The Minister decided to pursue it no further. At the following Monday morning’s Cabinet meeting, however, there was a discussion about primary education. Seeking to amuse her colleagues, she repeated the story about the walls of Jericho.
    There as a shocked silence. The Prime Minister raised his hand and looked at her sternly. “Be careful with this one,” he said. “We’ve had enough PR disasters in education recently. If it gets into the media and you’re asked to comment, just smile and say something like “boys will be boys”; then refer the matter to me and I’ll deal with it. We don’t want the government dragged into an issue like this for which it has no responsibility. The school should be advised that it’s a matter for the local police but that the government takes the issue seriously and will not tolerate acts of vandalism.”
    His cabinet colleagues chorused “hear, hear,” and banged their desktops to show their support. Another crisis averted!
    Bryan Gould
    3 December 2012