Once upon a less enlightened time, in a magical land right next door to this one, the grade school took on a new teacher with wonderful, magic powers. He discovered that the children were very disrespectful and very sloppy in doing their lessons.
One day, having become fed up with this, he muttered an incantation. Incantations are always properly muttered, stating them clearly is a no-no. Then he clapped his hands and a giant pit appeared right outside the classroom, so deep that when you looked into you could see only darkness.
One day his worst student turned in a particularly sloppy lesson and sassed him besides. “OK, that’s it!” he shouted. Being a big, powerful man, he had no trouble in dragging the girl outside and hurling her over the edge of the pit. She screamed a lot but it didn’t help her any. The screams gradually died away as she fell downward. Returning to the classroom, he demanded, “Who else wants to screw up?” The class was silent.
A week passed and discipline markedly improved. Much better work was turned in, and no more sloppy work at all. Sassy backtalk completely disappeared.
Then, to everyone’s surprise, the girl came back. She was gaunt and hollow eyed and her clothes were stained and tattered.
“It was horrible down there! Horrible! Half way down the shaft I began to slow down, so when I reached the bottom, I landed very gently. It was so dark I could scarcely see anything, but what I could see was so awful! The place was swarming with giant centipedes ten feet long! And they could talk! One of them befriended me, and told me, “Don’t worry, you’ll only be here for a week or so. I’ll see to it that you are fed.” And so he did; I got a glass of water and a piece of dry bread, twice a day. Big deal! My last day, I was rewarded with an ounce of collard greens. I think it was the centipedes’ idea of dessert.”
“I had to sleep in a narrow stone cell, on a board with a lumpy, torn up pad only three inches thick. I got a scratchy, itchy burlap gown to sleep in, and a bucket in one corner if I had to go. But my centipede friend said I was lucky, because this was an upgrade; things used to be really bad. The worst part was that they were very careless. All those centipedes with all those legs kept bumping into me, and tripping over me, and knocking me down. But for some reason it didn’t hurt me. And the next thing I knew I was back here.”
Apparently, she had learned a valuable lesson; her school work and her manners improved tremendously. Not only that, she learned a valuable lesson in physics. Her teacher pointed out the reason the centipedes didn’t hurt her when they ran over her was because of all their legs. As everyone knows, ten foot long centipedes weigh about a hundred pounds, but since their weight was distributed evenly among the legs, the impact of each leg wasn’t more than 5 or 10 pounds.
Some parents complained about the teacher’s methods, but they couldn’t argue with the improvement in their children’s behavior, and the fact that their SAT test scores went through the roof at the end of the year. So, everyone was happy; well, practically everyone.