The Littlest Girl Child
The Parable of the Warthog
Once upon a time, quite long ago, there was a group of mathematics lecturers at Universities and places like that who felt that everything wasn’t quite right with what and how they were teaching. So they had a meeting and discussed it and looked around and found that quite a few of their colleagues had the same feelings and not only in their home on the Southern Tip. What is more they found that many colleagues at home and in the Wide World participated in educational networks and projects and research. They noted that one group in particular was very active and called themselves the Calculus Reform Movement (although they didn’t really want to reform Calculus or move anywhere very much). So the Southern Tip group thought it would be good to invite some leaders of this Movement to come and to join a conference to tell people about their ideas. But they didn’t want to call this a conference because they wanted everyone to participate and so they called it the Calculus Reform WorkShop (although they didn’t expect people to work very hard or to sell anything). They gave the job of making this happen to a group of Organisers.
The Organisers were a bit worried that perhaps they really didn’t understand what these Leaders from the Wide World were going to do, so they hit upon the idea of taking them to an interesting part of the Southern Tip and having a pre-WorkShop meeting there. But the Organisers didn’t want to embarrass their guests by asking them directly exactly what this Calculus Reform was all about and neither did they want to show how ignorant they were by asking silly questions. Now it so happened that this part of the Southern Tip was one where lots of wild animals and birds lived and you could see them everyday. So the Organisers hit on a cunning plan. Every time they saw an animal or a bird they would ask if it was like Calculus Reform!
First they saw Lion. "Why!" said one of the Organisers. "Look how fierce and dangerous it is! It is just like Calculus Reform!" But the Leaders just looked shocked and said nothing. Then they saw Elephant. "Oh look!" said another of the Organisers. "It is so big and strong. Doesn’t that remind you of Calculus Reform?" But the Leaders just shook their heads and admired Elephant. Next they saw Eagle. "See how it soars to great heights", exclaimed an Organiser. "Wouldn’t Calculus Reform do that also?" The Leaders just smiled politely. And so it went on all day and the Organisers started to lose confidence in their plan. At last they saw Warthog. "By the way", said an Organiser without great interest. "There is Warthog. See how it is down on its front knees to dig up the roots." Immediately there was great excitement among the Leaders. And one of them said - and he was the biggest Leader of them all: "Now THAT is exactly like Calculus Reform! It isn’t pretty, or large, or pretentious or threatening. It is a compact animal that knows what it is about. And it is willing to get right down on its knees - in the dirt - to get at the roots of the matter!"
The Organisers thought this was very fine. Perhaps they still didn’t understand everything about Calculus Reform, but they thought it must be a very good thing. So they went back to the University and had the WorkShop and got very excited. And they always kept the Warthog as their mascot to remind them that mathematics teaching ideas don’t always have to be pretty and the group doesn’t have to be big or strong or fierce and certainly not pretentious, but they must get to the roots of the matter and one must be willing to get one’s hands dirty!
After the Workshop there was a lot more to do, so there wasn’t much time to just live happily ever after.
Warthog not seen by the Organisers
The Parable of the Littlest Girl Child
After a while of being too busy with Calculus Reform to live happily ever after, the Organisers decided that it was time to have a Conference in the Southern Tip where all the animals are. They could get together all people who are interested in Tertiary Math Education and also in animals and that would be Fun.
The Organisers sat around a table to decide what had to be done. One of the Organisers said that first of all they needed a Logo for the Conference. The others thought that it was a good idea. This Logo had to be of a Warthog because that’s what it was all about. They looked around to see who could make a Design and their eyes fell on a Woman Organiser who was known for getting enthusiastic about such a Thing. She was secretly Glad and Flattered that they asked her and promised to go home over the weekend and come back on Monday with the Design. The Woman Organiser went home to her Husband and Two Girl Children that she loves very much. She told them of the Design and they were very excited.
The Woman Organiser often had visits from Creativity and expected a visit from her again at any moment, but decided to start with the Design anyway in expectancy. She was also wise enough to know that Creativity does not come to you on command, she graces you with a visit when it pleases her.
The Woman Organiser had a Picture of a Real Warthog with her. She studied the Proportions of Warthog’s snout, she looked at the Curve of the Hindleg, she calculated the Position of the Tusks and she traced the Roundness of the Tummy with her eyes. She tried to put all of this into her Design. The Littlest Girl Child walked past cuddling her Cat, shook her head and said: ”Not like a Warthog.” The Older Girl Child had learned about Diplomacy and said: ”It sort of looks like a Warthog.”
The Woman Organiser started again. Now she noticed the Hairiness of the skin, the Pointiness of the Hoofs and the Wrinkliness of the Eyes. She started again and tried to add all of this to her New Design. The Littlest Girl Child walked past cuddling her Cat and said: “Not like a Warthog.” The Oldest Girl Child had lost Interest.
The Woman Organiser started over again and noticed more and more things about the Warthog, the Tuftiness on the Tip of the Tail, the Stickliness of the Hairs on the Ears and the Wartiness on the Skin of the Snout. She started again and tried to add all this to her New New Design. The Littlest Girl Child walked past, cuddling her Cat, looked at the Picture and the Design and still said: “Not like a Warthog.”
The Woman Organiser heard Frustration knocking on the door but she knew that Creativity does not like Frustration and told him to go away. She kept on trying by herself all weekend with no Satisfaction. Monday morning came full of Worry because the Woman Organiser was going to break the Promise of the Design.
Then suddenly, just before it was too late, Creativity sent her sister Inspiration to help. The Woman Organiser turned to the Littlest Girl Child and said: “Would you like to draw me a Warthog?”
The Littlest Girl Child put her Cat down, took a thick pen clumsily in her hand, looked at the Picture and drew a Warthog in no time at all. The Woman Organiser looked in amazement. From the thick pen had been born a Warthog without formality and details. The Littlest Girl Child had grasped the essence of what a Warthog is and put it down on Paper. The Proportions were all wrong and there only seemed to be Two Legs but it was Perfect. The Woman Organiser gave the Littlest Girl Child, and also the Oldest Girl Child, a Big Fat Kiss and the Husband said: “How about me?” So she also gave him a Big Fat Kiss.
The Woman Organiser took the Child Design to the Organisers. They looked at it for a long time until the Woman Organiser became uneasy. Then they looked up at her and said: ”This is it! This is what Calculus Reform is all about. It is without formality and without unnecessary detail, it grasps the essence. This Design shows Understanding. This is wonderful, we did right by asking you to do it.”
Then the Woman Organiser told them about the Littlest Girl Child and her Cat and her Design.
The Littlest Girl Child and her
Cat and her Design
(also known as Eleanor Harding, Tamyn Harding and Warthog Harding)