Friday, March 13, 2009

Damming the River

Due to stringent district policies, many useful sites such as Youtube, Delicious, and Twitter are being blocked from use during school hours. I wanted to write a blog post about how increasingly difficult it is to participate in digital learning from school. I wrote this story instead.

Damming the River

There once was a village that was built along the shores of a mighty river. The townspeople loved the river, and spent much time rejoicing over it.

“I use the swift current to travel quickly to other villages,” said the trader.

“The river irrigates my crops,” exclaimed the farmer, “and its power operates the water wheel on the grain mill!”

“We love to fish and skip rocks and swim,” cheered the children.

Everyone was happy with the river. Until one day when a young child waded too deep and was swept away. The villagers didn't know what to do. They realized that the river that provided them with so many valuable things could also be very dangerous.

One day, the mayor of the town gathered all the people into the village square and declared that he had a solution.

“My good people,” he began, “It is clear that something must be done with our mighty river to protect us from its dangers. We will build a dam and stop the water from sweeping away any more of our children.”

“But what about those of us who benefit from the river?” called the trader.

“We must protect our children,” reminded the mayor.

“Perhaps we could educate the children on staying safe while playing around the river,” suggested the town scholar. “This way the children will be safe, but everyone else will still be able to harness the power of the river. “

“That just won't do,” responded the mayor. “The children simply can't be trusted. And besides, would any of you want to be held responsible if another child were to be swept away?”

The townspeople looked at each other uncomfortably. Didn't they have enough responsibility in the village already, without having to worry about educating the children on the dangers of the river?

The farmer hesitated slightly, and stepped forward from the crowd. “I guess your solution will have to do,” he said to the mayor. “But who will decide how tall to build the dam and how much water will be allowed to pass through?

“I will,” replied the mayor. And there was no more discussion on the matter.

The dam was built and no more children were swept down the river. In fact, hardly anything swept down the river now because the dam had reduced it to nothing more than a lazy stream trickling through the village. The mayor looked down through his office window (the mayor's office was atop the tallest tower in the village so that he could observe everything with one sweeping glance) and smiled with satisfaction. But as he leaned out the window to get a better view of the village below, he heard a faint murmur. It sounded like the townspeople were upset. The mayor called the villagers back to the town square for another meeting.

“My good people, I have saved your children from certain death caused by the river. Why are you not happy?”

“There is not enough water to grow my crops,” muttered the farmer.

“And without the river,” added the trader, “I have no way of communicating with other villages. I can't sell my wares!”

“Excuse me, Mayor?” A boy stepped forward from the group. “I miss fishing and skipping rocks, and playing in the river. Only one child was swept away, and it was because he was careless. Why should we lose all the positive things the river has to offer because of one poor choice?”

The mayor did not have a good response to any of these concerns. “It is for the good of everyone,” he said, trying to reassure the townspeople. And there was no more discussion on the matter.

If you enjoyed my analogy, feel free to forward the link. You can also download the story in pdf format, here.

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2 Responses:

Angela said...

Had a conversation a few weeks ago with a group of friends around genre and how shifting genre can allow us to deliver a message in a far more powerful way. You know, we've all seen a lot of writing around this issue....but this is different....and your choice of genre made that difference. Very cool. Thanks for sharing!

Mrs. D said...

Great metaphor!