Emperor of Education has no Clothes, The


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…Or Dr. Erfert’s Wonderful Theory of Emolumentally Lucrative Regressive Disincentives
By John Cosgrove


ISBN: 978-1-905610-56-3
Published: 2006
Pages: 213
Key Themes: fiction, education, mania, humour, mental illness

“Dr Cosgrove’s book is one that you will want to share with others. This is an enjoyable, funny, satirical novel with a serious social commentary. Many of the characters and situations are instantly recognisable from my forty years of educational experience but it carries a message wider than the context of education. Beneath the antics of the seemingly mad Dr Erfert is the questions it raises about the awareness of mental health issues within schools and other areas of society.”– PF Lupton BA, Dip.RE., Retired teacher.


This book is meant to be a satirical novel based on the author’s forty years of experience in teacher training and inspection. Its fundamental principle is that much of what goes on in education is so bizarre as to be like the old story of the emperor’s new clothes. There is an elaborate game played by two sets of players. Some genuinely believe in the absurdities and some see through them but it is not in their interest to break rank. So long as everyone plays by the rules of this silly game the emperor has clothes.

But when one young Yorkshireman of sturdy common sense tries to make people believe that much of what goes on is nonsense he comes up against both sets of protagonists. The novel is partly a story of how he is defeated by the system and ultimately has to accept and embrace it. Many of the things John Cosgrove recounts in this novel have actually happened but they are wrapped around the bizarre antics of a ‘mad’ principal. The serious question on which the reader must decide for him or herself is whether Dr Erfert is mad or whether the madness lies in the society that tolerates and promotes him and other so-called educational experts. This is an interesting and thought provoking novel which raises questions for the whole of society.

About the Author

Dr John Cosgrove, BA, MA, MEd, PhD, DASE, PGCE, CELTA has forty years experience of the education system working in a variety of fields from schools to universities. He has been involved with teacher training for over thirty years and has held senior positions in the university sector including that of Dean of the Faculty of Humanities at Reading University. He has been the chief external examiner at Reading University for teacher-training courses. He has been on the Rochdale Education Committee and its successors for over 20 years and has held the chairmanship or vice-chairmanship of four governing bodies as well as of many university level committees. He is particularly well known for his contribution to Catholic education mainly in the Salford Diocese and was once invited to be an occasional historical consultant to a congregation in Rome. He has taken part in 80 OFSTED inspections specialising in History, Religious Education and Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural aspects.
He has written academic theses and has had a few articles accepted by newspapers (Times Educational Supplement) or journals (The Month) but this is his first novel. He has a children’s novel based on the Civil War, almost ready and has ideas for more work on Dr Erfert’s career as the emperor of education. He also has a plan for a non-fiction academic book on the principles of history teaching for student teachers and for teachers having an OFSTED inspection. He has now retired from full time work.

Book Extract

” Oh, very well,” sighed Dr Erfert when she finally got through to him that this was a matter worthy of his attention using, not the bomb argument, but the fact that the caller had been rude to her. Erfert always reacted well if he thought someone was being badly treated, especially a lady. He took the phone and before the man could utter any more threats he said, “Look here, whoever you are, I really cannot have you ringing up here and upsetting my secretary like this. I think that the least you could do is to apologise to her at once.” “Like Hell I will,” shouted the voice in exasperation. “Don’t you realise, you daft bugger, that I have phoned you to warn you that there is a bomb planted in your building and that if you do not get up of your arse someone is likely to be killed in about twenty minutes from now?” “I am not listening to you until you apologise to my secretary,” said our hero, who by now was beginning to think that he was dealing with an undesirable. Anyone who shouted at ladies and used rude language was an undesirable. The fact that he also appeared to plant bombs was useful confirmatory evidence. “Are you going to apologise or am I going to put down this phone?” he demanded. “Oh, all right then,” said the caller wearily. “Good,” said Erfert,” now that we have got that settled what is all this about a bomb ?” The man on the other end of the line perked up a bit at this invitation to return to his business. “There is a bomb in your building and it is timed to go off in twenty minutes.” “Eighteen, I think you will find,” said Erfert by way of correction,” but let’s not quarrel about that. Whereabouts is it?” “Why the Hell should I tell you where it is?” demanded the voice. “So that I can tell everyone where to stand when it goes off,” replied Erfert ever so patiently. “Aren’t you going to call the police or the fire-brigade?” asked the voice hopefully. ” I don’t suppose you could do that for me, could you? After all it is your bomb. You know far more about it than I do. And whilst you are doing that I could be putting up a notice in the staff room. But quite what I shall put on it, I really don’t know. Couldn’t you give me a little clue about where you have put it ? I hate being vague in notices to the staff. It is something I rather pride myself on.” “ Look mate,” there was a silence after these two words and then the voice went on slowly and painfully, “ if I wanted to blow up the college and you with it, I wouldn’t be likely to tell you where I put the bomb would I?” “Yes I grant you that,” said Erfert, always ready to see the other person’s point of view, “but you were good enough to phone me in the first place and I am only really asking you to be a little more specific. May I at least ask you why you have planted this bomb here?” “Because you represent the exploiter class and I want you to squirm along with all the other capitalist lackeys who are misleading the youth of this country.” “I suppose that you have got a point there,” mused Erfert, always ready to see the other person’s point of view. He was getting to like this caller who showed such an interest in the philosophical and sociological implications of Erfert’s own work, albeit a critical one. He asked him to explain in more detail his concerns.


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