The Animal School: A Fable for Parents

Okay moms and dads, it’s your turn to sit down and hear a story.

Back in 1940, a man by the name of George Reavis, who was superintendent of the Cincinnati Public Schools, wrote a fable. It’s called “The Animal School,” and it’s now in the public domain. The fable is very insightful with respect to children with so-called disabilities. As the story illustrates, in many cases it is not the child who is “disabled,” but the faulty teaching system. I’m going to share the fable with you, and as you read it, see what insights you can gain.

THE ANIMAL SCHOOL by George Reavis

Once upon a time the animals decided they must do something to help their children face the problems of the world, so they organized a school. They had adopted an activity curriculum consisting of running, climbing, swimming and flying. To make it easier to administer the curriculum, all the animals took all the subjects.

The duck was excellent in swimming. In fact, he was even better than his teacher. But he made only passing grades in flying and was very poor in running. Since he was slow in running, he had to stay after school and also drop swimming in order to practice running. This was kept up until his webbed feet were badly worn and he was only average in swimming. But average was acceptable in school so nobody worried about that, except the duck.

The rabbit started at the top of the class in running but had a nervous breakdown because of so much make-up work in swimming.

The squirrel was excellent in climbing until he developed frustration in the flying class where his teacher made him start from the ground up instead of the treetop down. He also developed a “charlie horse” from overexertion and then got a C in climbing and D in running.

The eagle was constantly causing problems and was severely disciplined. In the climbing class, he beat all the others to the top of the tree, but he kept insisting on using his own method of getting there. This was unacceptable.


At the end of the year, an abnormal animal known as a Snakehead Fish enrolled at the school. He could swim exceedingly well and also run, climb, and fly a little. He ended up having the highest average and became valedictorian.

THE END

My Thoughts…

How many of our own “ducks” or “squirrels” are considered learning disabled because they have difficultly adapting to a curriculum which does not foster their talents and unique strengths? How many of our “rabbits” experience the effects of stress and emotional problems because they are overwhelmed with a system that does not support them? How many “eagles” are punished, disciplined, or are labeled as troublemakers because they have their own way of achieving goals?

And what about the Snakehead Fish? Readers, what is your take on the symbolism there? I’ve got my personal interpretations, but I’d love to hear yours.

I love this fable. I hope it might, in a very simply way, help you see that your son or daughter may have untapped potential beyond what you might have imagined. She may only struggle because the education system is not the right personal fit for her.

What “animal” is your child?

Kristyn Crow is the author of this blog. Visit her website by clicking here. Some links on this blog may have been generated by outside sources are not necessarily endorsed by Kristyn Crow.

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