The theory runs thusly: it is very well known that students arriving fresh at any university know all there is to know about absolutely everything. But when they leave, after many years of study, they’re usually only too ready to admit that there is a lot they don’t know. Raw knowledge must therefore have been passing from the students into the University, where it accumulates.
„Many things went on at Unseen University and, regrettably, teaching had to be one of them. The faculty had long ago confronted this fact and had perfected various devices for avoiding it. But this was perfectly all right because, to be fair, so had the students.
The system worked quite well and, as happens in such cases, had taken on the status of a tradition. Lectures clearly took place, because they were down there on the timetable in black and white. The fact that no one attended was an irrelevant detail. It was occasionally maintained that this meant that the lectures did not in fact happen at all, but no one ever attended them to find out if this was true. Anyway, it was argued […] that lectures had taken place in essence, so that was all right, too.
And therefore education at the University mostly worked by the age-old method of putting a lot of young people in the vicinity of a lot of books and hoping that something would pass from one to the other, while the actual young people put themselves in the vicinity of inns and taverns for exactly the same reason.
It was the middle of the afternoon. The Chair of Indefinite Studies was giving a lecture in room 3B and therefore his presence asleep in front of the fire in the Uncommon Room was a technicality upon which no diplomatic man would comment.
Ridcully kicked him on the shins.
‘Sorry to interrupt, Chair,’ said Ridcully, in a very perfunctory way. ‘God help me, I need the Council of Wizards. Where is everybody?’
The Chair of Indefinite Studies rubbed his leg. ‘I know the Lecturer in Recent Runes is giving a lecture in 3B,’* he said. ‘But I don’t know where he is. You know, that really hurt—‘
* All virtual lectures took place in room 3B, a room not locatable on any floor plan of the University and also, it was considered, infinite in size.”
“The shortest-lived creatures on the Disc were mayflies, which barely make it through twenty-four hours. Two of the oldest zigzagged aimlessly over the waters of a trout stream, discussing history with some younger members of the evening hatching.
‘You don’t get the kind of sun now that you used to get,‘ said one of them.
‘You’re right there. We had proper sun in the good old hours. It were all yellow. None of this red stuff.’
‘It were higher, too.’
‘It was. You’re right.’
‘And nymphs and larvae showed you a bit of respect.’
‘They did. They did,’ said the other mayfly vehemently. ‘I reckon, if mayflies these hours behaved a bit better, we’d still be having proper sun.’
The younger mayflies listened politely.
‘I remember,‘ said one of the oldest mayflies, ‘when all this was fields, as far as you could see.’
The younger mayflies looked around.
‘It’s still fields,’ one of them ventured, after a polite interval.
‘I remember when it was better fields,’ said the old mayfly sharply.
‘Yeah,‘ said his colleague.’ And there was a cow.’
‘That’s right! You’re right! I remember that cow! Stood right over there for, oh, forty, fifty minutes. It was brown, as I recall.’
‘You don’t get cows like that these hours.’
‘You don’t get cows at all.’
‘What’s a cow?’ said one of the hatchlings.
‘See?’ said the oldest mayfly triumphantly. ’That’s modern Ephemeroptera for you.’ It paused. ’What were we doing before we were talking about the sun?’
‘Zigzagging aimlessly over the water,’ said one of the young flies. This was a fair bet in any case.
‘No, before that.’
‘Er ... you were telling us about the Great Trout.’
‘Ah. Yes. Right. The Trout. Well, you see, if you’ve been a good mayfly, zigzagging up and down properly -‘
‘- taking heed of your elders and betters -‘
‘- yes, and taking heed of your elders and betters, then eventually the Great Trout -‘
‘Yes?’ said one of the younger mayflies.
There was no reply.
‘The Great Trout what?’ said another mayfly, nervously.
They looked down at a series of expanding concentric rings on the water.
‘The holy sign!’ said a mayfly.’ I remember being told about that! A Great Circle in the water! Thus shall be the sign of the Great Trout!’
The oldest of the young mayflies watched the water thoughtfully. It was beginning to realize that, as the most senior fly present, it now had the privilege of hovering closest to the surface.
‘They say,‘ said the mayfly at the top of the zigzagging crowd, ‘that when the Great Trout comes for you, you go to a land flowing with ... flowing with ...’ Mayflies don’t eat. It was at a loss. ’Flowing with water, ‘ it finished lamely.
‘I wonder, ‘ said the oldest mayfly.
‘It must be really good there,‘ said the youngest.
‘ ‘Cos no-one ever wants to come back.’”
It is a wondrous human characteristic to be able to slip into and out of idiocy many times a day without noticing the change or accidentally killing innocent bystanders in the process.
The world has become so complicated that we're all bluffing our way through the business day, hoping we're not unmasked for the boobs that we really are.
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