JUST occasionally you get one of those facts that stops you in your tracks. This week it was revealed that more than half of children think potatoes grow on trees.
Perhaps it's the parents' fault. According to surveys for the TES sister website learnfree.co.uk and the BBC, they spend more time on their kids' homework than their offspring. Poor things - between the Government's demands that they support their children's schoolwork and provide good role models by going out to work themselves there's not a lot of time to peel and cook real, mucky spuds or enhance their kids' general knowledge.
Schools, meanwhile, are otherwise occupied with the 3Rs in order to get the best possible showing in this month's national tests. This week's wheeze for enthusing boys in literacy and numeracy: make them translate the offside rule into English (impossible) and work out how much cash a footballer gets from his ludicrous transfer ee.
The throw-a-footballer-at-a problem approach surfaced again in a "morale-boosting" visit by Kevin Keegan to St George's RC school in London, plagued by violence since its head Philip Lawrence was murdered by a teenage gangleader in 1995. Head Marie Stubbs said of Keegan: "What a man; those shoes must have cost more than we earn in a year but he was happy to run round in the rain." There's a whole numeracy hour in that one.
Misty nostalgia from MPs on their first day at school - but few surprises. John Redwood didn't miss his mum, William Hague walked out in protest after a morning of jigsaws, and Charles Kennedy had wind up his kilt and mud on his knees.
Less nostalgia from Lord Puttnam on good old Mr Chips. "I don't recall Mr Chips starting his day with a tour of the local housing estate, persuading parents to get their children out of bed." Bet his pupils knew where potatoes came from, though.