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Wild Goose Chase : Sir Walter Scott warned that schoolchildren must not expect to be entertained all the time.
Wild Goose Chase

From ‘Waverley’ (1805) by Sir Walter Scott.

In his novel ‘Waverley’ of 1805, Sir Walter Scott cautioned that classroom games need to be backed up with disciplined study. An Edward Waverley, he said, who learns only when he feels entertained, will never put in the hard labour needed to win genuine satisfaction from anything he does.

THE history of England is now reduced to a game at cards, and the doctrines of arithmetic may, we are assured, be sufficiently acquired by spending a few hours a week at a new and complicated edition of the Royal Game of the Goose.*

It may be subject of serious consideration, whether those who are accustomed only to acquire instruction through the medium of amusement may not be brought to reject that which approaches under the aspect of study; whether those who learn history by the cards may not be led to prefer the means to the end; and whether, were we to teach religion in the way of sport, our pupils may not thereby be gradually induced to make sport of their religion.

To our young hero, who was permitted to seek his instruction only according to the bent of his own mind, and who, of consequence, only sought it so long as it afforded him amusement, the indulgence of his tutors was attended with evil consequences, which long continued to influence his character, happiness, and utility.

* One of the very first board games, developed in Italy during the 15th century, very much like snakes and ladders. The board is marked with a spiral racetrack chunked into numbered squares, and players advance along the track by rolling dice. The winner is the first to reach the end. There are various hazards, jumps and penalties. See a late 18th century French board at British Museum: Jeu de l’Oie (Game of the Goose).

From ‘Waverley’ (1805) by Sir Walter Scott.

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Sir Walter Scott (1) Extracts from Literature (93) Character and Conduct (28) Fiction (83)

Picture: Bodleian Collections, via Wikimedia Commons. Licence: Public domain. View original
A ‘Game of the Goose’ (Jeu d’Oie) board dating from 1820, at the Bodleian Library in Oxford. It is marked with various figures from classical mythology. Sir Walter appreciated that children needed their intellectual appetites whetted, but he believed that some teachers were now letting their pupils dictate terms, and consequently doing lasting harm to their young charges’ characters and prospects.
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By Sir Walter Scott
(1771-1832)
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(1775-1817)

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