Exercise 1

A. Listen to a journalist explaining the quiz. Answer the questions.

1   Why was the show called QI?

2   What is the basic principle behind the show and its books?

3   What two examples are given from The QI Book of General Ignorance?

4   What does the popularity of the books prove?

5   What are the two reasons Lloyd and Mitchinson give for why children often do badly in school?



1   Because it stands for Quite Interesting and the writers think all facts are interesting. It is also IQ backwards (IQ = intelligence quotient, the numerical measurement of somebody’s intelligence).

2   Everything you think you know is probably wrong, and everything is interesting.

3   You are more likely to be killed by an asteroid than by lightning; Julius Caesar was not born by Caesarean section.

4   That human beings, especially children, are naturally curious and want to learn.

5   Schools can make an interesting subject boring by making children memorize facts, and if children are forced to learn something, they will probably be less successful.


Why is it that so many children don’t seem to learn anything in school? A TV producer-turned-writer has come up with some very revolutionary ideas.

A few years ago, TV producer John Lloyd thought up a formula for a new quiz show. The show is called QI, which stands for “Quite Interesting,” and which is also IQ backwards. It’s a comedy quiz show hosted by actor Stephen Fry, where panelists have to answer unusual general knowledge questions, and it is perhaps surprising that it’s particularly popular among 15 to 25 year olds. Along with co-author John Mitchinson, Lloyd has since written a number of QI books, for example, The Book of General Ignorance, and these have also been incredibly successful. Lloyd’s basic principle is very simple: everything you think you know is probably wrong, and everything is interesting. The QI Book of General Ignorance, for example, poses 240 questions, all of which reveal surprising answers. So we learn, for example, that you are more likely to be killed by an asteroid than by lightning, or that Julius Caesar was not, in fact, born by Caesarian section.

The popularity of these books proves Lloyd’s other thesis: that human beings, and children in particular, are naturally curious and have a desire to learn. And this, he believes, has several implications for education. According to Lloyd and Mitchinson, there are two reasons why children, in spite of being curious, tend to do badly at school. First, even the best schools can take a fascinating subject, such as electricity or classical civilization, and make it boring, by turning it into facts which have to be learned by heart and then regurgitated for exams. Second, QI’s popularity seems to prove that learning takes place most effectively when it’s done voluntarily. The same teenagers who will happily choose to read a QI book will often sit at the back of a geography class and go to sleep, or worse still, disrupt the rest of the class.

B. Now listen to the journalist explaining Lloyd and Mitchinson’s ideas about education. Complete the five suggestions they make.

 Education should be more ________ than ________.

 The best people to control what children learn are the ________ ________.

 Children should also be in control of ________ and ________ they learn.

 There should never be ________ without ________.

 There’s no reason why school has to ________ ________ at 17 or 18.

C. Listen again and make notes about the reasons.



1   play…work

2   children themselves

3   when…how

4   theory…practice

5   stop dead


 Because learning should never feel like hard work.

 Because if they follow their curiosity, they will learn things because they are interested in them.

 Because children shouldn’t be made to go to school every day if they don’t want to. There wouldn’t be any exams, only projects chosen by the children.

4   Because children would learn all theories through practical activities.

5   Because there should be no official school leaving age. Young and old could continue to learn together.


So how could we change our schools so that children would enjoy learning? What would a “QI school” be like? These are Lloyd and Mitchinson’s basic suggestions.

The first principle is that education should be more play than work. The more learning involves things like storytelling and making things, the more interested children will become.

Second, they believe that the best people to control what children learn are the children themselves. Children should be encouraged to follow their curiosity. They will end up learning to read, for example, because they want to, in order to read about something they are interested in.

Third, they argue that children should also be in control of when and how they learn. The QI school would not be mandatory, so students wouldn’t have to go if they didn’t want to, and there would be no exams. There would only be projects, or goals that children set for themselves with the teacher helping them. So a project could be something like making a movie or building a chair.

Fourth, there should never be theory without practice. You can’t learn about vegetables and what kind of plants they are from books and pictures; you need to go and plant them and watch them grow. The fifth, and last point Lloyd and Mitchinson make, is that there’s no reason why school has to stop dead at 17 or 18. The QI school would be a place where you would be able to continue learning all your life, a mini-university where the young and old could continue to find out about all the things they are naturally curious about.

Exercise 2

A. Listen to an interview with Iris Dunham, graduate of a Waldorf School. In general, does she regard her education as a positive experience, a negative experience, or both positive and negative?

B. Listen again and mark the sentences T (true) or F (false).

 Waldorf Schools focus on the needs of the child rather than imparting information.

 Iris was not required to take any exams while she was at school.

 Today, she would not be permitted to travel to school in the way that she did in the past.

 She has very fond memories of her early school years because she was free to do what she wanted.

 She considers that she learned more about art at her school than she would have at any other.

 She regards the elementary stage of her education as much more effective than the high school stage.



Both positive and negative.


1 T   2 F   3 T   4 F   5 T   6 T


Interviewer   Iris, the school you attended was different from a conventional school, wasn’t it?

Iris   Yes, it was. I went to a Waldorf School.

Interviewer   Can you briefly explain to us what that is?

Iris   Yes. It’s a school that follows the theory of Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher. The idea is that school should help a child develop the tools to be able to learn what he or she wants to rather than having knowledge delivered to them. Waldorf schools have been around for about a hundred years now.

Interviewer   Very interesting. Now, how long were you at the Waldorf School, Iris?

Iris   I was there from the ages of five to 18. I went all the way from kindergarten to twelfth grade. I got a high school diploma, just like any other student at a regular U.S. high school, but I was able to concentrate most of my studies around art – um, you know, Waldorf schools focus heavily on creativity and the arts. In general, the question of exams is kind of a gray area in Waldorf Schools, because, well, they don’t really fit into the whole philosophy of it at all.

Interviewer   Yes, I’d heard that. Um, where exactly was the school you went to, Iris?

Iris   Uh, it was about 15 miles from my house. My dad used to take us there in his big, red delivery van. There were about ten of us and he would drive around picking everybody up. This was in the days before health and safety; none of us wore seat belts. In fact, there weren’t any seats in the back of the van, so everybody just piled in and sat on the floor. Oh, driving with my dad to school was a lot of fun – we had a party every morning.

Interviewer   Yes. What about when you got to school?

Iris   Um, kindergarten was great. All the toys were made of natural materials; we had lots of great wooden toys. And we did lots of fun activities like singing and baking. But that doesn’t mean that we were left to wander around freely. It’s, it’s a pretty structured approach, and everything is done for a reason.

Interviewer   What about after kindergarten – what were the classes like then?

Iris   Um, the ones I remember most are the art classes, because I loved them. Um, by art, I don’t just mean painting and drawing. We did things like woodwork and metalwork and lots of crafty stuff like sewing and, uh, weaving. No other school would’ve offered me the same opportunities as I had there, and it totally set me up to do what I do now.

Interviewer   Which is…?

Iris   I design and make furniture – it’s all very hands on. At college I studied ceramics: I earned a BA from Alfred University in upstate New York and then an MFA at the Stamps School of Art and Design at the University of Michigan. I use a lot of ceramics in my work, making ceramic lighting and that kind of thing. Actually, all of my peer group ended up doing something creative with their lives: some went into music and acting. That’s the kind of thing a Waldorf education prepares you for.

Interviewer   Iris, you have children of your own now. Are you planning on sending them to a Waldorf School?

Iris   Uh…probably not, no, although it very much depends on them. The twins are only two months old, so I still don’t know how their personalities will develop. If I see that one of them is artistic, or that one would benefit from smaller classes, then I might consider it, but in general, I’d rather my kids grew up in the real world.

Interviewer   It sounds as if you have some regrets about your education, Iris.

Iris   I’m not sure “regrets” would be the right word, because a Waldorf education wasn’t the wrong thing for me. I loved it until I was about 12, when I began to realize that I was living in kind of a bubble and I started to rebel against that. I also wish I could have had more of an academic input in the later years – that would have opened a lot more doors for me.

Interviewer   Iris, it’s been really interesting talking to you. Thank you so much for your time.

Iris   No problem.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This