Two years ago today my favourite author died. So today, I thought it might be worthwhile to post an extract from one of his books. And, I thought, since I’m a teacher, I would post the extract from Wee Free Men where the travelling teachers appear.

I’m grateful that I’m not an itinerant teacher any longer.

&c.

And that was the trouble. If you didn’t find some way of stopping it, people would go on asking questions.

The teachers were useful there. Bands of them wandered through the mountains, along with the tinkers, portable blacksmiths, miracle medicine men, cloth peddlers, fortune-tellers, and all the other travellers who sold things the people didn’t need every day but occasionally found useful.

They went from village to village delivering short lessons on many subjects. They kept apart from the other travellers and were quite mysterious in their ragged robes and strange square hats. They used long words, like corrugated iron. They lived rough lives, surviving on what food they could earn from giving lessons to anyone who would listen. When no one would listen, they lived on baked hedgehog. They went to sleep under the stars, which the math teachers would count, the astronomy teachers would measure, and the literature teachers would name. The geography teachers got lost in the woods and fell into bear traps.

People were usually quite pleased to see them. They taught children enough to shut them up, which was the main thing, after all. But they always had to be driven out of the villages by nightfall in case they stole chickens.

Today the brightly colored little booths and tents were pitched in a field just outside the village. Behind them small square areas had been fenced off with high canvas walls and were patrolled by apprentice teachers looking for anyone trying to overhear Education without paying.

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