Every child levitates

That educational hot potato, the free school, will undoubtedly be debated for a long time. An invigorating shot in the arm - or a divisive system that will put additional schools where they are not needed?

I can't say I'm enthusiastic, particularly when I read that one of the schools will be based on the teachings of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. If you were around during Beatlemania, you will remember this gentleman. In the Sixties, the self-styled prophet was dubbed "the giggling guru" owing to his habit of chuckling constantly while being interviewed. His eye, however, was firmly on the main chance, and during the flower-power era he found people willing to shower him with money.

It would have been interesting to be a fly on the wall during the governors' conversations while they were setting up their free school ...

"OK, everyone, we need a mantra for our school. We can't put a banner up saying 'Ofsted says we are satisfactory with robust tendencies', because they haven't inspected us. We need a philosophy from a worthy dignitary to pull the punters in. Nothing political or contentious, of course. Now, I've been considering the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi ..."

"The Mah who, Jeremy?"

"Famous Indian guru, Edward. Started transcendental meditation and said wise things we could use as the basis for our teaching and learning."

"Thank God for the internet, eh Jeremy? I've just Googled him and ... ah yes ... he said he had the power to defy gravity and levitate while meditating. Could be in trouble with the health and safety brigade if our kids start doing that. And he said that laughter is the key to everything."

"Laughter is very important in education these days, Simon. You have to laugh, or you'd probably end up shooting yourself."

"True, Jeremy, but I can't help wondering about some of his famous sayings. 'When you are appreciating creation as much as the creator, then the creator will ask who is appreciating his creation.'"

"Probably not the best quote, Simon. What else have you got?"

"How about, 'When the elephant walks through the village, all the dogs come out and bark'. Or, 'Only a new seed will yield a new crop'."

"Nice analogy, Simon. After all, our children are seeds in need of nurture."

"Are we looking for someone with impeccable credentials, Jeremy?"

"That's the general idea, Elspeth."

"Well, I was a flower-power gal in the Sixties, and I seem to recall this guru chappie making millions of pounds on his global transcendental tours while proclaiming that money wasn't important, and then saying he was celibate while offering to give young women in the Beatles' entourage some very special meditation in a darkened cave ..."

"I think we should look on the positive side, Elspeth. After all, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi sounds a jolly impressive name, and that's the important thing. Our parents will be too young to know who he was, anyway. So, if we're all agreed, let's move to the next item ..."

The governors probably wouldn't have known the most famous - though disputed - quote, spoken by John Lennon after the Beatles had packed their bags in disgust at the Maharishi's greed and sexual shenanigans. "Boys! What's wrong?" the Maharishi shouted after them.

"You should know," Lennon replied. "You're the fucking mystic."

Mike Kent is headteacher at Comber Grove Primary, Camberwell, south London. Email: mikejkent@aol.com.

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