Further adventures of Phil Harris private HMI

21st January 2000 at 00:00
"GOOD morning Mr Harrass," said the voice on the tape machine. I opened the accompanying envelope and flicked through the photographs of unsavoury characters. "The people before you," continued the tape, "are at the core of a group of right-wing educationists. One of their number has produced a report using dubious but superficially plausible research that must not be allowed to become public knowledge. Your mission is to destroy the only copy.

"As ever, should you or any of your Implausible Mission Force be captured, the Registrar will deny all knowledge and your actions will be used by certain sections of the media to make Scottish education look inadequate. Good luck, Phil. This tape will self-destruct in five seconds."

My first attempt to infiltrate was a failure. Extensively and convincingly made up as Michael Forsyth, I was turned away with the warning: "We don't want any namby-pamby wet liberals here." I shuddered, then went off to don my Helen Liddell costume.

This got me into their inner sanctum but I made a mess of rolling my "Rs" and was rumbled. However, I had plenty of time to case the joint. The report was kept in a glass case ringed with laser alarms. I needed some training.

I mocked up the laser beams in my apartment using threads pinned from wall to wall. Next I bught a black leotard and put it on. I had intended then to invite a gym mistress to show me how to slip between the strings but almost landed myself in the slammer when I tried to recruit one.

In the end I went in through a skylight, first dropping a shredded copy of one of the more impenetrable Higher Still subject guides. I figured that if it had confused some of the best teaching minds in the country it would do the same to a two-bit alarm system. It worked. I took the report to my car and, against orders, read it before burning it. When I got to the end, I gave a low whistle. This was dynamite.

The author claimed research proved that boys learnt best in an environment where they were afraid of their teacher. Sarcasm, stinging put-downs and the ever-present threat of physical assault were all effective motivators.

"Like resource-based learning," the paper concluded, "the culture of praise and teacher-pupil partnership has been found wanting and must be replaced." I held each sheet by the corner as I lit it. I knew I hadn't heard the last of this, though I would have to leave it to deeper thinkers than myself to figure out the motivation behind it.

I fired up my wheels. Was I heading forwards into the new millennium or back to the forties? How the hell should I know?

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