On the sixth day of Christmas my true love sent to me: six geese a-laying. What do they lay? Goose eggs, of course. Goose egg is slang for zero. The phrase traces its origins to the 1860’s, when it was used to indicate a score of zero in a baseball game. Zeros in academia can mean either a terrible performance (“I scored zero on the exam”) or a stellar performance (“I missed zero on the exam!”). Depending on which type of goose eggs are being laid, those geese may be a wonderful or an unwelcome gift.
One unfortunate goose laid golden eggs, and Aesop tells us that this talent ultimately led to her death. I wonder if we are sometimes guilty of “a short-sighted use of an asset that leads to its demise,” as Wikipedia expresses the moral of the fable. Do I try to cram so much information into my students’ heads that they ultimately lose sight of the pleasure of learning? On the other hand, do we risk asking so little of our students, in the name of access and retention, that we no longer offer anything of real value?
Tomorrow we’ll tackle the swimming swans.