Parable of league tables

27th December 1996 at 00:00
A king ordered every family in his kingdom to grow plants for his temple. Amongst the competitors were two men who both harboured hopes that their seeds would grow into the best plants in the world.

The man who was rich put his seeds into the most fertile soil money could buy. He planted just a few seeds across a wide area so that the many gardeners could lavish attention upon each one. His wealth allowed him to divert a river to flow through his garden. The man's seeds thrived and grew into large, healthy plants.

The other man was a carpenter who could only afford to plant his seeds in the local nursery. The many seeds in the inadequate, stoney soil had to vie for the attention of the lone, overworked gardener. He gave the seeds what little water he was allowed but this was not sufficient. The seeds grew into withered and stunted plants.

The king decided that the finest plants should be brought to his palace. A list was compiled with the finest plants at the top. The rich man's seeds were at the top, the poor man's seeds at the bottom. The king declared that the rich man was the best gardener in the kingdom.

He gave the rich man more money so that he could continue his excellent work. He decried the poor man for his failure to produce plants of equal quality.

Listen then, if you have ears!

Richard Burgon, aged 16, lives in Leeds.

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