This fable by Howard Kingsley was distributed in one of my education classes over a half century ago. It still has a familiar ring.

This fable by Howard Kingsley was distributed in one of my education classes over a half century ago. It still has a familiar ring.

Once upon a time, the animals held a big meeting and decided they didn’t want to be wild anymore. “Men are not wild like us,” said the fox. “When men want to go some place they don’t have to run or even walk. They just sit down and ride in automobiles. But men, of course, have schools, have schools.”

“Men are not like us,” said the birds. “They don’t have to tire out their wings when they travel through the air. They just sit down and ride in an airplane. But then, men have schools.” “Men are not like us,” said the fish. “When they travel by water, they ride on boats, sometimes even under water. But, of course, men have schools.” “Men are not like us either,” said the groundhog. “You should see how they dig deep holes with machines and they don’t have to use their claws at all. But then, as you said, men have schools.” “The answer to our problem,” said the owl, “is that if we don’t want to be wild anymore, we’d better have a school, too.” “Let’s have a school. Let’s have a school,” cried all the animals.
So that is exactly what they set out to do. First, they organized a school district and then they elected a school board. At its very first meeting, the school board passed a motion to hold a bond election to build a school. But it wasn’t as easy as it looked. Not by a jugful. For all of a sudden, the animals began to squabble over where the school would be located. The fish said it should be built under water. The birds said that was the silliest thing they every heard, and that anybody with a grain of sense would know that they only place to build a school was high up in a tree. The groundhogs said that both the fish and the birds were talking nonsense, and that if they had enough sense to pound sand in a rat hole, they would know that the only safe place to build a school is underground. The foxes scoffed at all three of these ideas.

“Nobody but a bunch of dumbbells would ever build a school any place but on the ground,” said the foxes. “And there’s where it’s going to be,” they snarled, “and you birds and fish and groundhogs can like it or lump it.”

Now the school board counted noses all around and decided that more animals lived on the ground than in the air, or in the water, or under the ground. So the board decided to build the school on the ground where it would do the greatest good for the greatest number. But only the animals who lived on the ground agreed with the board. The birds screeched. The fish expressed violent disapproval. The groundhogs squawked. They said THEY wouldn’t vote for the old bond issue for a school on the ground. Now under the law, it took four-sevenths of all the animals to pass the bond issue. But added together, the birds and fish and the groundhogs made up almost half of the animals so when they voted against it, the bond issue was badly beaten at the election. So the animals didn’t get any school, anywhere, in the air, in the water, under the ground or on the ground. Now that was a long time ago. And even to this day, they don’t have any school. That’s why the animals are still wild.

Roy Shaver writes a weekly column for the Daily News.