Douglas Adams was a genius who was taken far too soon. In his classic tale The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy he tells of a place in a distant galaxy where the super-rich can have entire planets custom-built for them. In the book, Arthur Dent, the hero, is abandoned on the surface of Magrathea by his travelling companions - except for Marvin the Paranoid Android - only to stumble upon one of the planet's design team, a certain Slartibartfast who is played in the film by Bill Nighy. As they prepare to visit the planet's workshops, Slartibartfast ("My name is not important") says, "I must warn you. We're going to pass through a ... gateway sort of thing. It may disturb you. It scares the willies out of me!"
The end of this term feels much the same. We, too, are hurtling towards an unknown future. There's so much that we can't control and that we cannot know. I've had my timetable through for September, for example, but it may yet turn out to be as good a guide to what actually happens in six weeks' time as the timetable in the bus shelter over the road which hasn't been replaced since February even though the actual bus service has changed beyond all recognition.
Arthur and Slartibartfast take a brave step when they entrust their lives to a rusting metal bucket that takes them out at a frightening speed onto the factory floor to see Earth Mark 2. But once they arrive they are amazed at what they see. One man is filling the oceans from a huge fire hydrant; another is painting Uluru (Ayer's Rock) with bright orange paint while, in the next moment, the Himalayas rise up from the planet's surface. Arthur is transfixed.
We have a habit, as human beings, of assuming that, if we don't know what lies ahead then we have to be scared of it; suspicious, even frightened. But why? On what basis do we decide that it has to be worse than what has gone before? Might it not, possibly, be better than anything we have imagined?
Our schools and communities may be like 'rusting metal buckets' but, if we turn down the ride we will never find out what may lie ahead and the vital contribution we could make in re-designing and renewing it.
Slartibartfast says, "The chances of finding out what's actually going on are so absurdly remote
that the only thing to do is say 'Hang the sense of it' and keep yourself busy!". It's not a bad suggestion.
The Classroom after the Storm is taking a break now and will, hopefully, be back in late August to prepare for the new term.