First published in 1939, this education classic, written in an acutely observant, pointedly satirical voice, is just as relevant and applicable to today's key questions in education as it ever was. With tongue firmly in cheek, the author takes on the contradictions and confusion generated by conflicting philosophies of education, outlining in metaphorical narrative the patterns and progression of education itself, from its beginnings as a practical response to the necessities of human existence through to its culmination in a ritualistic, deeply entrenched social institution, with rigidly prescribed norms and procedures, and an elaborate system of rationales for the whole. This all may sound like pretty heavy going, but it isn't. The author's ideas are developed within the fictional framework of lectures, given by Professor J. Abner Peddiwell, doyen in the History of Education at Petaluma State College. That the lectures are given at the Longest Bar in the World, located in Tijuana, as the professor and his former student, Raymond Wayne, ingest quantities of tequila daisies, gives an added piquancy to the narrative.
In this narrative, Raymond Wayne, who, despite being Phi Beta Kappa and a magna cum laude graduate of Petaluma State, is working as a washing machine salesman, spots his old idol and professor, J. Abner Peddiwell in Tijuana, and their conversation leads to a historical account and analysis of the development of education. In the Paleolithic era, the first educational theorist was New-Fist-Hammer-Maker, who systematized the three essential skills needed by people of his time, fish-grabbing, horse clubbing, and tiger scaring with fire, into a curriculum for children of the tribe. For years this improved the skill levels of the tribe so that they were able to live in relative peace, plenty and security. However, conditions changed, fish left the local ponds, small horses and saber tooth tigers disappeared, but still the now-entrenched education professionals persisted in instructing students in these skills, on the grounds that they represented eternal verities and universally valid methods, which could be applied to any situations that life might bring about.
How these establishmentarians are affected by the new wave of progressive education proponents, including those in the Real Tiger School, what the impact is on Paleolithic youth, and what further ramifications occur in the outside world, form the burden of this fable for all times, a funny yet pithy romp through the groves of academe.