SUVs and burning questions that could put the wheels of change in motion

29th July 2011 at 01:00
My new Jimny 4x4 and a dream involving monkey nuts offered me fuel for thought

I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." J Robert Oppenheimer tells how these words from Hindu scripture came into his mind as he watched the Trinity atomic bomb test. On a day when I was perhaps suffering a sense of proportion bypass, the same words came into my head as I took to the wheel of a 4x4 that I had just bought.

It's not a big 4x4. Big 4x4s have names like Animal, Warrior or Defender. Mine's called a Jimny. I got it to replace the Scamp kit car that has been a father-and-son-project for the past few years. The aforementioned son will be learning to drive soon, so the new project needs to have some basic safety features lacking in the Scamp. Doors are a good start.

Anyway, I won't be driving it enough to destroy worlds. For a start, it's slower, less comfortable and less economical than the vehicle that I use for my substantial daily commute. It's also four-wheel drive only when I tell it to be so, by pulling on the little extra lever down by the handbrake.

This is the point where I should contrive a clumsy analogy. "Like my Suzuki Jimny, comprehensive education ."

Indeed, I might have done so, had it not been for the peanut dream. I was in a car park in my Jimny and felt the wheels begin to fight for grip. I put it into four-wheel drive and all was well, giving me a chance to have a look to see what the problem had been. I quickly discerned that the surface was covered by monkey nuts.

Monkey nuts, peanuts, ground nuts - call them what you like but, in the world of school science health and safety, they are significant to the point of being iconic. There is an experiment, widely carried out in early secondary, where food is burned to make the point that it is a store of energy. Peanuts were often used for this until the danger of them inducing anaphylactic shock in certain pupils was identified.

While there is no Prohibition of Peanuts Act (2006), most schools have banned their use in this activity. And why not? The experiment is to show that food, not peanuts, is an energy store. It's a no-brainer that if there is a safer, reasonably practicable way to do something, you do it that way.

There are lots of foods that burn well, as demonstrated by SSERC some years ago. I could list them, but I'm going out for a run in my Suzuki, mindful of the words from my friends at Road Safety Scotland. "The safest car is the one with a spike sticking out the steering wheel."

Gregor Steele, Scottish Schools Education Research Centre

Gregor Steele loves his Jimny even though it's slower, less comfortable etc.

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