Schooling: A Fable of Sharks and Fish by Bertolt Brecht

If sharks were people,’ his landlady’s little daughter asked Mr. K, ‘would they be nicer to the little fish?’ ‘Of course,’ he said, ‘if sharks were people, they would have strong boxes built in the sea for little fish.
There they would put in all sorts of food, plants and little animals, too. They would see to it that the boxes always had fresh water, and they would take absolutely every sort of sanitary measure. When, for example, a little fish would injure his fin, it would be immediately bandaged so that he would not die on the sharks before his time had come.
In order that the little fish would never be sad, there would be big water parties from time to time; for happy fish taste better than sad ones. Of course, there would be schools in the big boxes as well. There the little fish would learn how to swim into the mouths of the sharks. They would need, for example, geography so that they could find the sharks, lazing around somewhere. The main subject would naturally be the moral education of the little fish. They would be taught that the grandest, most beautiful thing is for a little fish to offer himself happily, and that they must all believe in the sharks, above all when they say that they will provide for a beautiful future.
One would let the little fish know that this future is only assured when they learn obedience. They must shy away from all lowly, materialistic and Marxist inclinations, and inform the sharks immediately if any one of them betrayed such tendencies. …
If sharks were people, there would of course be art as well. There would be beautiful pictures of sharks’ teeth, all in magnificent colors, of their mouths and throats as pure playgrounds where one can tumble and play. The theatres on the bottom of the sea would offer plays showing heroic little fish swimming enthusiastically down the throats of the sharks, and the music would be so beautiful that its sounds would lead the little fish dreamily to the chapels and, filled with the most pleasant thoughts, they would stream down the sharks’ throats.
There would certainly be religion. It would teach that true life really begins in the sharks’ bellies. And if sharks were people, the little fish would stop being, as they are now, equals. Some would be given offices and be put over the others. Those a little bigger would even be allowed to eat the smaller ones. That would only be delightful for the sharks, for then they would more often have bigger crumbs to gobble up. And the most important of the little fish, those with offices, would look to the ordering of the little fish. And they would become teachers, officers, box-building engineers, etc.
In short, there could only be culture in the sea if the sharks were people.’
Bertolt Brecht: Kalendergeschichten
This parable was taken from Everett Reimer’s book School Is Dead.  I am shocked that I never ran across this book in my unschooling days.  He was a compadre to Ivan Illich. This is his take on Deschooling Society.  If you want to know more about Illich and his take on informal education drop in on infed (informal education) and browse their ‘stacks’.

How I Got My Attention Back

How I Got My Attention Back

There are a thousand beautiful ways to start the day that don’t begin with looking at your phone. And yet so few of us choose to do so. For twenty-eight days this winter I lived on the grounds of an…

Here is how I try to keep my attention. I have an office with two desks. One is for online work and the other is for the real world. I have a rolling chair and can stop any time to make a liminal move from one to the other.  Plus, because we are shepherds and farmers we are never far from the weather, the stars and the world of chores and keeping a fire set and breaking ice from water and all the happy quotidien field walks with the dogs.

Below is my analog space. I do charge my various tablets here, but I write here and go full-on Gutenberg here mostly.


I do digital here.

I drink coffee in both spaces.

I need balance. Today my wife and I will go walk together doing shinrin-yoku (森林浴). You get balance, too.

By the way, how do you get, keep, find your balance between digital distraction and real life?




Rock Solid in a Storm: Daniel Bassill with a Life Rope

Daniel’s posts always do more than inform. They are full of persuasion and  they make me a better person.  I have been mulling over his latest post,

Conflicted: How to focus long term when world around is in turmoil?

As usual he has some serious wisdom to share. This time he takes the long view about giving in a world full of turmoil. I say it is wise because it runs counter to what the prevailing wisdom is (which is really an oxymoronic thing to say, right?). Most folk are saying ‘resist’ and even fight. Dan says instead that we need to save democracy by giving more. More money and more service.

I am annotating both the images and the text at NowComment and have added a few other choice readings from Isaiah Berlin and an article about the ‘triple bottom line’ from Tanya Hall and Timothy F. Slaper as extras. Come visit. His writing always repays on its ROA–return on attention. It is not a zero sum game either. You will gain life for time invested. No, really? 😉