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Castor!  Pollux!   Have you done your prep?

Brassie was just checking that everything had been cleared so

that the family could enjoy the Bank Holiday.  She hadn’t noticed any

scholarly activity going on in the boys’ room.

It’s all under control, mater, said Castor.

No worries! Pollux chimed in, not even looking up from his Ipad.

Are you sure?

Yeah, we outsourced it.  It should be e-mailed back to us from India by

Randeep in time for Tuesday period 4.

What?!  Brassica thought she was going to explode.

Well, explained Castor, Mr Milford-Haven was telling us that he was

snowed under by marking and that he had read about the latest

service where teachers could send their guilt pile abroad and have

scripts marked in a far continent for two quid… I mean pounds. 

He had registered his mother’s glare.

I don’t know why you don’t like the idea, Mother Darling, Pollux

chipped in.  You send out our ironing, don’t you?

It’s not quite the same thing, their mother pointed out grimly.

Teachers are supposed to gain knowledge of their pupils’

apprehension of their subject from assessing their charges’


Mr Snodbury doesn’t pore over our work, Castor replied.  He

told us that he climbs up to the galleried landing over the

vestibule and, if the coast is clear, he scatters our exam scripts

over the banisters.  He says that he has an instinctive awareness

of who is hot and who is not.  He can tell by looking at the writing

if they are any good, or not, without even reading them.  So he

picks them off the floor in  rank order.

Apparently he has an inner geiger counter that tells him who

should be top.  He was born with it and he says that is what

makes him a good teacher, added Pollux.

I don’t believe what I am hearing, Brassie said.  It is a pity that

there will be no one in the office on Monday, as I would like to

speak to The Headmaster about this.

Oh, don’t Ma, both boys chorused.  Snod is the best teacher in

the school.  Everyone knows that.

I wonder if he even had teacher training, pondered their mother.

He said it was a waste of time, Pollux volunteered.

Oh yeah, agreed Castor.  In that History lesson he said teachers,

like soldiers, only learned in the field.  He told us that the difference

between theory and practice was as great as learning to stick a

bayonet in a sandbag in a training camp in Kent and actually going

over the top in World War One.  That’s why some people call

teaching ‘classroom warfare’, he said.

I think that was a totally inappropriate thing to say to young

impressionable people, Brassie said, tight-lipped.  I’ll deal with

this next week.  Now, what was this prep that you sent off? 

English, or…?

Maths, answered the twins.  It’s not exactly difficult to grade. 

It was all multiple choice.

I suppose the staff are relying on your honesty in feeding back

the scores?

Yeah.  Chillax, Mumsie.

Brassie gave Castor another severe look.

Anyway, laughed Pollux.  Mr Milford-Haven told us that practically

everything is subjective.  Even Gandhi just managed 64% in Kathiawar

School Exams and only achieved a ‘fair’ in Arithmetic.

And this is the standard of the people who will be marking my sons’

work! thought Brassie bitterly.

So what happens if you challenge Mr Snodbury’s scores? she persisted.

You don’t, clarified Castor.  The last boy who questioned Snod’s addition

had a mark subtracted for impertinence, so nobody says anything now.  We

don’t mind.  It all comes out in the wash.  That’s what he always says.

I see, said Brassie.  She would have to discuss this with their father.

Clearly the only marking that was being done in that school was the

defining of masters’ territory.  The way they still sat at those high desks

as if they were inviolate inside some Caucasian Chalk Circle of their own

making made her blood boil.  She could only hope that Snod, The Senior

Master, would trip up as he stepped down from his raised dais to go to the

Staffroom at break- like that Millipede, as the boys called him. He needed

taking down a peg or two.

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She felt like encouraging her boys in non-co-operation, something

that funny little man in the loincloth had advocated, she seemed to

remember.  Ben Kingsley, yes.  She’d seen the film with Cosmo when

they were courting.  Passive resistance. It would be interesting to see

how Senior Management would handle that mode of soft insurrection.

It might bring the institution into the twenty first century.  Goodness

knows how Ofsted had ever rated them ‘Outstanding!’  Maybe the

Inspectors just made everything up so they could go home early at

the end of a difficult week, eating Hobnobs in various base rooms and

frightening the life out of those who still had any remnants of vivacity

and enthusiasm for their subject.  Fools!  Did they not know that they

were being assessed on whether the Hobnobs were the chocolate variety

and whether the coating was milk or plain, according to the predilection of

the individual interrogator, eh, Inspector?

She was surprised at her strength of feeling!

It would serve the staff right if they encountered a bit of opposition if

they were contemplating posting off her boys’ precious outpourings to

a country where the Jain concept of ‘syadvad ‘ was rife.  All views of truth

are partial.  Ha!  What she paid the school fees for was confirmation of


And she could hardly chide her little darlings if they were merely

anticipating and enacting the vile policy of those who were supposed

to be their guardians and mentors.

The face of Gandhi in old age—smiling, wearing glasses, and with a white sash over his right shoulder