Pedagogical Buffoonery in the Land of the Grumpf
By Hoot Foozle
“People used to worship the sun, Hoot,” the teenager Beagle Boy said to me. “But the Grumpf runs the sun, so we worship the Grumpf.” He barked twice, then continued. “It just makes sense.”
I’ll admit it ruffled my feathers a little; the ones on my back and arms brushed up against my cardigan, trying to expand. I calmed myself down, spun my head around 180 degrees to make sure I was still pristine, hoping I wasn’t violating the subtle punctilio of conversation, even with a pup like the one in front of me.
When I was in school, a little foozle in the corner of an integrated classroom, I’ll admit the instructors were quite free with the make-believe tomfoolery. They encouraged absurd ideas of bunnies and flying men and eating flesh from a corpse and all other manner of unscientific and fantastical speculations, sweeping and grand in their scope. I still feel, in my heart of hearts, that there were nevertheless very clear limits to the level of nonsense the adult world was willing to foist upon us young foozle—and importantly, absolutely crucially, there were always (or very nearly always) the clear intention to tell us, even before adult responsibilities had otherwise taken away the magic of things, that these were just stories—no real Santa, no real egg-bunny, the zombie stuff just a metaphor, et cetera. The lies that peppered our childhoods with fantasy and magic were benign lies, not so much deceptions as things remarkable and entertaining, like pretending to be a superhero or even pretending to be the Grumpf himself as so many of our young do.
But this—the idea that the Grumpf actually controls the sun, and thus that traditional heliolatry is rightly directed at him—it wasn’t just that the idea was outrageous, or that the logic was fallacious, but that it somehow crossed a line I never even knew was there. The red and orange monster Grumpf was relieving himself on the sacred, and right in our curriculum. He was dishonoring the dead by making them simply premonitions of his future minions, seers perhaps, venerated perhaps, but only because they lead to him. I had not been aware at all that I had such strong feelings about the matter, or any feelings on the matter.
“Early sun worshippers knew nothing about the Grumpf,” I said.
“That’s why they’re pagans,” Beagle boy foozle said. “But they were on the right track’s the thing—they had the scent of the divine.” He took a couple sniffs with his great big snout.
It occurred to me then what a terrible state of disarray our educational system is in, how the curriculum itself had become another means of reinforcing Grumpf-mania. A truly sad state. Revisionist history and bad scholarship. I’d bet the appointees on the Grumpf’s council of Cultural, Religious, Philosophical and Sundry Affairs didn’t consult, let alone understand, even a single page of pedagogical theory. Before the Grumpf, I know the council permitted a little ideological interest to infiltrate our curriculum. I’m a pragmatist, and such things ought to be tolerated if it benefits the ultimate goal: an education and a functional society with a healthy economy. Moreover, I’ve often thought that perhaps one can occasionally disarm a war by allowing a skirmish, a small fracas to satisfy those hungry for combat. A little brainwashing here and there might be tolerated just so people can get things done. I understand that the opinion is unverifiable, untestable, a thought against the void of night. And yet.
“Is this what they teach you foozle these days?” I asked the furry little fellow, his tongue hanging down to his collarbone, saliva beading on its end and making a slow, elastic fall to the ground below. “They teach you young foozle that the Grumpf controls the sun?”
“The Grumpf provides every foozle with a fine education,” the boy said, then I notice his ‘Vote for the Grumpf!’ campaign button on his backpack. I handed him my bottle of water. “It’s yours,” I said. “You need it more than I do…” I stopped myself from saying that I have human sweat glands where I don’t have feathers, while he’s stuck with an over-sized tongue; it would’ve been insensitive for me to bring that up. It’s not like he chose not to have sweat glands—and even if he had, who am I to judge? Maybe it’s better to cool through a massive tongue that looks like something you’d find the Grumpf hurling at a Loser, an exotic rotten water buffalo tongue, perhaps.
The water bottle was empty when he put it back down. When he’d finished I continued. “You understand that the Grumpf doesn’t care about the average foozle, right? You understand that he’ll only support what helps him?”
The boy’s tail stopped wagging. He licked his nose and shook his head. “You could get in a lot of trouble saying things like that Mister Hoot,” he said, the end of his tail pointing at me from between his legs, accusing me.
“I know,” I said, and I walked away. No sense having rotten meat thrown at me. My feathers ruffled against my cardigan as I thought about what’s become of our great valley. It’s just hard to understand how this happened, even for a wise old bird like me.