The Parable of the Tail with No Teeth
Page 13
nce upon a time there was a castle. It was a
huge castle with land ranging far and wide
beyond its portals. The castle employed many vas-
sals and peasants because, although its single most
important product was manure, a great variety of
tasks had to be accomplished to assure a steady
supply. Within the castle were several stables and
many horses. Fields and farmers who provided fod-
der for the horses surrounded the castle. Although
many workers (the teeth of the castle) were neces-
sary to carry out the functions of the castle, an even
greater number of people (the tail) seemed to be
necessary to keep the workers functioning.
The castle became very successful as the
demand for its manure grew. The production tasks
became more plentiful, more intricate, and harder
to teach to the many new peasants who had to be
brought into the stables to do them. Thereupon, the
wise men were asked to devise a solution, which
became the program they called “DOLT.” DOLT
stood for “Drudgery on Location Training,” and the
trainees came to be called “dolts” by the lords and
the trainer vassals. The process was very time con-
suming, and production suffered as stable hands
turned into trainer vassals ineptly tried to teach
the peasant dolts how to do their jobs. Of course,
something was lost with each successive transfer
of knowledge. In this way, the stable vassals began
really to resemble dolts.
Finally, the king decided that another way had
to be found to teach peasants the duties of the
castle, particularly in the stables. The new way
could not require those already doing the jobs to
teach the new people. So it came to pass that the
wise men applied their attention to the problem.
They labored hard to bring forth the idea to create a
school and to staff it with vassals dedicated only to
teaching. In this way the passing on of knowledge
could be separated from the day-to-day business of
the castle. Named the Institute of Very Organized
Readying of Yeoman, the school’s spaces quickly
came to be referred to as the Ivory Rooms.
The king loved the idea and hailed the wise
men as, once again, the saviors of the castle. The
first student peasants were given instructions on
how to handle manure in classrooms located in
an old, unused Tower far away from the stables.
Eventually, the king had a pristine new tower–
named the Ivory Tower–built even farther from
the stables than the old rooms. Thus, training was
also physically removed from the manure as far as
The king assigned educated vassals in the castle
to the Ivory Tower as Transmitters of All Learned
Knowledge or “TALKers.” The TALKers were most-
ly vassals who were too old to execute their pro-
duction duties adequately. Some had even been
pensioned off for years (the Lord of the Purse was
happy to see these return; he was often heard to say
that they were now “earning their pensions”). The
original cadre of TALKers passed on quickly and
had to be replaced by other vassals from the castle
and stables. The replacements were chosen by the
lords of the other towers who of course always
selected the least productive in their workforces
(those that weren’t already shelved on a staff).
Fortunately, these personnel decisions weren’t
any better than their other decisions, and some
fine TALKers were acquired quite by accident.
Nonetheless, the “replacing down factor” gave rise
to the idea of class participation. In some classes
The Parable of the Tail with No Teeth
Part III: The Training Tail That Wagged the Teeth

Get The Parable of the Tail with No Teeth now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.