Down in the Anglican Old School Sixth Form a message circulates that the Head of the Sixth Form wishes to speak to Christopher Sheitz, Philip Headturner, Fred Frame Righter, Davina McCall (who is male) and Newt S. Temperament. Also outside is the Head Boy of the Sixth Form, Roman Williams, who is waiting to go in after them.
They wait outside his oak door office. To the side a red light goes off and the green light below comes on. Led by the Head Boy, they walk in and, responding to the head's hand signalling, gather round the desk.
Head of Sixth Form: I want to talk to you boys about your work. Several teachers have approached me now and I must tackle this with you boys directly.
Newt S. Temperament: Sir, we work well and always on time.
Head of Sixth Form: Yes, indeed you do, and all your teachers, especially your Religious Knowledge teacher, inform me that you work very well and hand in your essays on time.
Fred Frame Righter: What is wrong with them sir? You have brought us in to discuss what is wrong with them?
Head of Sixth Form: Yes I have. I wonder if any of you boys can tell me.
Davina McCall: Sir, they are well researched.
Head of Sixth Form: They are often very well researched, if selectively. McCall, I want to talk to you later about your appearance. Tomorrow at 10:00 a.m.. Now, what else?
Christopher Sheitz: Sir, they are literate. We follow the advice of our literacy and study skills classes.
Head of Sixth Form: I think you do.
Fred Frame Righter: We do make cogent arguments, sir. We try to see that some follow on from the other. I would like to explain myself at some length here, sir...
Head of Sixth Form: Yes, stop there, I have read your work and with some jumps and unjustified leaps I would say they are reasonable pieces of logic given your premises, of course. Righter, I am talking now. Not everyone would agree with them by any means but, I will say, they more or less hang together.
Newt S. Temperament: Sir, these are reasonable pieces of work.
Head of Sixth Form: These project essays most definitely are, though I have to say Temperament that some of your work worries me. I detect an increasing note of anger and teachers have expressed concern about your behaviour. I will like to talk to you separately about this. But no, this is not the problem. So where are we? Generally well written, mostly argued properly, and researched - even with references I might add in some cases - and indeed as such would be reasonable pieces of work. And yet I have had to call you all in. Now why is that?
Christopher Sheitz: I don't know sir.
Philip Headturner: Sir, I don't know either. Sir, my parents say they are worried about the people I mix with, but we work hard sir!
Head of Sixth Form: Have not your teachers told you boys? I think you have a definite blind spot here.
Davina McCall: Are they... too... long?
Head of Sixth Form: Well done Davina! I was only talking to your big brother the other day about the number of hours you must be putting into your work. And not only are you writing essays that are far too long but you have actually handed in more than you were asked for, as if your teachers haven't got the point from the last essay handed in.
Newt S. Temperment: What should we do sir?
Head of Sixth Form: Well, and I cannot understand you in this, Temperament, because some of your pieces handed in can be quite short and look quite unacademic, and yet others give the appearance of being thought through. Now you seem to have joined these boys in doing what they are doing wrong.
Christopher Sheitz: What is your advice, sir?
Head of Sixth Form: Sheitz, tell me, what is the point of producing an essay 27 pages long if you can make the same argument in five sides? Why should you boys produce such an essay when it is almost exactly the same as the last one you handed in? It is a study skill, boys, to express yourself succinctly and to the point, and quite frankly we are full time teachers with many classes to teach. I have to tell you that your teachers simply skim through your work at these ridiculous and unwarranted lengths and this is why you are receiving only low marks for such huge and unnecessary effort. And frankly, boys, we have heard these arguments before in that, in producing such long pieces, there is a lack of balance too. But how much better it is to: say it, say it briefly and well, and as briefly as it takes to demonstrate the evidence and make the argument. I am sure boys that you can do it and it is about time you did. Now, was Head Boy Roman Williams outside?
Newt S. Temperment: Yes, my friend is outside, sir.
Head of Sixth Form: Well ask him to come in as you go out. I need to discuss with him how we can start to understand what he is writing in his essays. We are increasingly baffled - and I think you have become involved.
Newt S. Temperment: I try to help him, sir.
Head of Sixth Form: Yes, we have noticed you are now handing in an extra essay each time that is supposed to tell us what he wrote in his. We think you are making your own argument, Temperament. I know you want to be Head Boy of the Sixth Form next year but we shall have to wait and see. Wait outside Temperament until I have seen Williams and then I need a word with you about this. The rest of you can go.
Newt S. Temperment: Thank you sir. Come on boys, I'll look after you.