A teacher I know told me this story of something that occurred in her first year of teaching. She had a class of ten year olds and over the course of the several months she had taught them how to debate and analyse issues from a number of different points of view. One day a student raised the point that keeping the much-loved classroom pet, a small yellow canary, in a cage instead of allowing it to be free, was cruel. My friend saw an ideal opportunity for the practical application of democratic principles.
She decided to have the class debate the pros and cons of setting Monty free. Which ever view prevailed, on the basis of evidence and logic, would result in the canary remaining in the cage or being allowed to fly wherever his heart led him. After half an hour it was clear that the class consensus was for the door of Monty’s cage to be opened and for his incarceration to end.
Everyone sat forward expectantly as the teacher opened the cage door and lifted the little bird gently onto her palm. Then with a gentle flourish upwards, she ushered Monty into the air saying, “Fly, little birdy, fly!” The class clapped and cheered.
Now, Monty – under the effects of freedom’s mighty intoxication or maybe just severe depression – flew up and up and straight into the whirling blades of an overhead fan. With a sudden crump and a blaze of yellow feathers, the tiny bird fell lifeless to the classroom floor.
Intensive counselling and sustained rest were needed to overcome the more traumatic effects of this tragic event. Even some of the children were affected.
Lessons that we can take from this little tale?
- If you love something and set it free, it may come back to you quicker than you think.
- Just because a decision is democratic doesn’t mean it’s a good decision.
- If you love something and you set it free and it doesn’t come back, it may be dead.