The Lollipop Stick Experiment

People who put their hands up to answer a question are self-selecting. They’re essentially ego-shrieking, “PUT THE SPOTLIGHT ON ME! I KNOW! I KNOW! I JUST LOVE TO SHOW HOW CLEVER I AM! YES! ME! ME!” People who behave in this way tend to justify it in terms of enthusiasm, of involving themselves in what’s going on around them, in fully taking part. Actually, these explanations, like the act itself, are entirely self-serving. It’s the neo-liberal cult of the individual, of “Screw you, buddy. I’m in it for me!” Imagine a world where a pupil or office worker, instead of putting their hand up, leans over to whisper the answer in the ear of their unknowing fellow. But, hey, that wouldn’t be good training for selling your arse to the corporatocracy and its game of getting on.

In a school somewhere in England they did an experiment – the Lollipop Stick Experiment. There would be no self-selection, no putting up of hands; the teacher would choose the student to answer the question by pulling out a lollipop stick from a can that contained a lollipop stick for every student in the class. A random choice. Anyone might be called upon to provide the answer. Hmm. Who do you imagine troubled most by this? Not the children accustomed to being ignored, or those who infrequently put their hands up. The worst that could happen to them was to be asked a question to which no-one expected them to know the answer? They might surprise and get it right; or, alternatively,  just shrug  “Don’t know” and let teacher move on to someone else. An opportunity gained, nothing lost. No, it’s bad news for only one group: the frequent hand-raisers, the self-selecting spotlight-seekers. A disaster, indeed. Because they might find themselves in the spotlight – exactly where they love to be – when they DON’T know the answer. Everyone looking at them – under the spotlight – and they DON’T know. The agony, the humiliation! To be exposed like that. The trick revealed. It just looks like you always know they answer because you, though always eager to do so, decide when you put your hand up. You’re a teacher-pleaser, keen to make yourself look good at the expense of your fellows. Shit! You really need to get your lolly stick out of that can.

And that’s precisely what they did. To eschew the risk of being seen not to know, they elected to forego the spotlight altogether. There is no grace or charm in this act, no potential for personal growth; it’s sulky and mean-spirited, a petty passive-aggressive response to not being allowed to show off at the expense of your class-mates. Grace and charm would share the spotlight and take being wrong in it in their seemly stride.

Of course, the system in which you live and work, and educate your children, would rather you compete than co-operate. It has done this to you and is doing it to your children. If you’re fighting amongst yourselves to get on and noticed, you’re unlikely to pause long enough to question the system, never mind change or overthrow it. This is how they – the corporatocracy and its well-compensated political puppets – circumscribe thinking, put it in a box. Be brilliant by all means – problem-solve in your classroom or office for housepoints or money – but don’t really think. Don’t, whatever you do, ask about the nature of the box, or whose interests it really serves.