The Schoolmaster

by Adam Acidophilus

The parents of a boy — hoping to secure him the best possible start in life — visited a famous school. They were shown around the premises by one of the masters.

“You will appreciate that this is one of the most distinguished colleges in the world,” said the master, leading them down a wood-panelled corridor. “We shall soon be marking our one thousandth anniversary.”

They turned up a staircase.

“Aye, that’s very impressive,” said the father. “We have great ambition for our son.”

“Ambition is frowned upon by the school,” the master told them. “Ambition is the herald of competition. Competition is base. Competition is vulgar. We shall not tolerate ambition or competition within these walls.”

“What my husband means — ” the wife intervened, a little embarrassed by her husband’s remark — “is that you must have a lot of very clever boys.”

They reached a creaking landing, and walked along it.

“Cleverness is not appreciated by the school,” the master told her. “For cleverness is the trap door to vanity; and vanity is a sin. Would you wish for a vain son? I thought not. We have a way of dealing with clever boys.”

They passed a number of huge portraits, darkened by the years: men in uniform, men in robes, men in priests’ vestments.

“Well, just so long as his knowledge is expanded — is what I meant to mean,” stuttered the father. “You know, and his enthusiasm is tapped.”

“Enthusiasm is the harbinger of lust,” replied the master. “Any enthusiasms found in this place shall be extinguished. So far as knowledge goes: in the wrong hands knowledge can prove fatal — did you know that? No! I thought not!”

The parents shook their heads.

“Were we to hand knowledge to every last ambitious, clever schoolboy have you any idea of the consequences? Clever, ambitious, knowledgeable, enthusiastic schoolboys?”

The parents had no idea of the consequences.

“Then leave him to us,” said the master. “We know what to do with those sorts of boys.”

A distant whimpering echoed from somewhere. A door was heard to slam.

On they went, through a maze of passages and book-lined rooms.

“But you’ll encourage him?” said the mother.

“Encouragement is not encouraged,” said the master.

They came to the master’s study: as high and as gloomy as a castle keep.

“Just so long as our boy attains excellence,” muttered the father.

“The school takes a very dim view of attaining,” the master answered, settling into his chair. “And an even dimmer view of excellence. They are omens of pride — and we are careful never to mention them.”

“But you’ll sharpen his wits?”


“You’ll harness his initiative?”


“He’ll be happy?”

“I very much doubt that.”

The mother hesitated. “You’ll stimulate his imagination?”

“Good God. Never,” said the master. “We shall stifle. We shall quash. We shall break him.”

The parents looked at each other in silence.

“But, he will get an education?” said the mother.

“Education,” whispered the master. “Is the gateway to catastrophe.”

“Oh well,” sighed the father. “Just so long as he gets the same as we did. Where do we sign?”

Moral: Guess the country.


© Adam Acidophilus 2018