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.


Published by


Writer, Test Analyst, born in Scotland half a century ago - now living in England with my partner and cat.

One thought on “The Lollipop Stick Experiment”

  1. Hi Writer Level Zero

    I’ve been reading your thoughts with interest! I seem to recall from some dim corner of my mind that Socrates said that being a politician should never be self-selecting – rather, it should be like National Service, something you would be required to do for a while in the public good. Only one class of persons would be barred from the service: people who want political power.

    Actually, I do have an ulterior motive in Commenting here. I came across your “novel rejects” blog. I’m a total newbie in this writing malarkey, but I did download (and enjoy) An Individual Will. I very much liked Barbara Black, although if I knew her, I probably couldn’t stop myself giving her some haircare advice!

    Anyway, it seems that despite Barbara’s personality, some literary agents are not wanting to represent it? I’ve had some free time recently – my job is very rewarding but “unusual” – so with the extra leisure time, I have written a detective story and have ideas for a few more plots. So it was interesting to read your experiences of agents. I wanted to thank you for sharing your experiences. One thing puzzles me though. It seems that you’ve contacted the agents first, then published on Smashwords. I’ve published on Smashwords first, and am now wondering about whether I should write to some agents. So a bit confused – a bit of a “writing virgin”! I’d really appreciate your thoughts on Smashwords and the Agents (sounds like a band!).

    If you do have opportunity to reply, it would be really appreciated. I’m at .

    Anyway, the lollipop stick idea seems good to me. But Socrates’ ideas – well, he was Greek, after all. I hear they’re after our Marbles now! I mean, do they even play Marbles in Greece?

    Holly X


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s