The Trogs and the Prads. Episode 1

Once before, (no not upon) a time there was two tribes. Each tribe had loosely shared goals and philosophies that were strung together with gaffer tape and some liberally glued semantics. The tribes were named the Trogs and the Prads, and each wore their gang colours with ebullient helpings of pride. While the tribes generally kept to themselves, over time they had begun to inhabit the same forest, the strangely named Curricugodgy Wood. The coming together of the two tribes led to a violent outbreak of rank stupidity.

Whenever individual members of either tribe ignored the pleas of elders to stick to the pathways and not venture into the dark wood, violent attacks would be the outcome. If some poor bumbling Prad wondered alone, he or she would soon be pitiless prey for the roaming squads of Trogs who moved stealthily around, jealously guarding their territory. At times the Trog squads would devour the defenceless creature, and other times just hunt them for sport.

The Prads themselves were excellent hunters known for their ferocity and tenacity in expanding their territories. They took great pride in hiding out near a fortified Trog stronghold and ambushing any who dared venture close or even whisper it’s name. Like the Trogs, the Prads hunted in fighting armour made almost entirely of a particular thread made of pomposity interwoven with self-admiration. It was almost impenetrable, (almost) to any kind of weapon dipped in thoughtful, measured and reasoned questioning. The tribes matched each other blow for blow, and rarely achieved any new ground to stake their respective claims upon. Until one day…..

The Prads had been keeping a wary eye on a new tribe who had set up a very modern village in a valley adjacent to Curricugodgy Wood. The valley was called Sillycone Valley and its strange inhabitants were the Corpreneurs. Now the Corpreneurs were thriving in their valley due to the fact they were colonising all around them without so much as a USB cable to use as a weapon. While they appeared to be a very peace loving people, Corpreneurs had the peculiar ability to talk you out of your property and rights before you could bat an eyelid. They lured you onto the battlefield, started talking gibberish, and by the time you got home your castle was gone. There were many a person who had gone into battle with the Corpreneurs and been left with nothing but a pathetic,insecure grin to show for it.

The Prads admired these new Corpreneur raiders and their battle tactics, and decided to form a coalition with them. Nothing in writing mind you, but an unspoken understanding that they were fighting a common enemy. The Trogs greeted this new alliance between the Prads and Corpreneurs with ridicule and disdain. Well, just long enough until they realised that the war had swung against them somewhat, and that they may well have to seek a similar affiliation.  They started sending feelers out to other valleys.

There are two other tribes I haven’t spoken of, the Teachlings and the Learnlings. Their number far outweighed the total of the Trogs, Prads, and Corpreneurs combined. Unfortunately while strong in number the poor Teachlings and Learnlings held little sway in the woods and valleys where they toiled everyday. They mostly dutifully accepted their lowly place in the pecking order. (The Prads often got the Teachlings and Learnlings mixed up, which annoyed both no end). Occasionally you would see a timid little Teachling standing at the front door of their house sipping a cold cup of tea or coffee. They took little notice of the wars raging around them. When all the tiny learnlings they had taken under their wing were shuffled inside, the door was closed, and the really important stuff could begin……

Mark Johnson


I reject your experiences and substitute my own.

Another week and another visitor to a school in Wembley blogging about their positive experience, and of course attacked on twitter for daring to say these things. What is it about our digital identities that allow us to dismiss the experiences of others (which we wouldn’t do in person) despite never having visited the school? I think it’s about planting a flag and virtually saying, “None shall pass”. Is there another way?

What if you vehemently disagreed with the educational philosophy of a school, you regarded it as draconian, inflexible and damaging to students, and against everything you believe, or know, or the research you align to or have done yourself? Now imagine you are about to speak to a child who has moved to the school. They tell you at their previous school they were bullied and intimidated and unruly classrooms constantly disrupted their learning. They had had a miserable time there. Now they are happy and confident and excited to be in an environment where they feel they are actually learning. Do you tell them they are wrong? Do you tell them that the school is damaging them and they are being treated poorly? Do you dismiss their experience as invalid?

What if a student was coming from a very strict academic environment where they were miserable and constantly in trouble? What if they were now in an educational environment where there was lot more freedom and students drove their own curriculum? You might be inclined to think that this is a recipe for disaster, and not helpful for disadvantaged students. Would you tell the student who has now adopted a more positive self-image and is actually doing something with their learning and has improved their behaviour no end? Do you dismiss their experience as invalid?

This is a simplistic notion of imagining that before you spit venom or ridicule what a school is doing (no matter how much they promote themselves) think about a scenario where you are talking to a student who is happy and confident at this school. What might your reaction be now? How might that change where you plant your virtual flag? Indeed, how might that re-frame how you think about your digital identity?

The answers to these question are complex and varied, yet they can be made very straightforward. No school should be above criticism, but if you haven’t seen it through the eyes of those who are there, what would you say to the students who feel they belong and are valued?