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A tale for today: how much is a free lunch at the 'Koob Café'?

By Blog Editor, IOE Digital, on 23 March 2018

Rose Luckin
Chris walked into a London cafe. It had a strange name: ‘Koob Cafe’, but Chris had been attracted by the sign over the door saying “Free Lunch here all day every day.” The cafe staff explained that all Chris had to do to enter the cafe and get a free lunch any day, was to press a small button on the cafe to agree to abide by the rules and regulations of the café, which was actually a bit like a club. Chris had no worries about doing this because copies of the rules and regulations were freely available in several volumes lined up at the side of the café counter, and the cafe staff, invited all their customers to browse any of these volumes at their leisure.

Chris was served with a steaming hot plate of delicious stew, which Chris ate while chatting away to the crowd of other friendly people enjoying their food. Whilst all this eating and chatting was going on, the cafe staff kindly looked after all Chris’s belongings, placing it securely in the cafe’s storeroom. After lunch Chris collected these belongings from the storeroom and set off again, feeling much cheerier and well refreshed – making new friends was such fun and the free lunch was excellent too. One thing was puzzling though, how could ‘Koob Cafe’ provide all this for free, Chris pondered on this whilst performing the daily chores and decided that visiting ‘Koob Cafe’ as often as possible just had to be a good thing to do, and that there was no need to concern oneself with other people’s business models.
Increasingly frequent visits to the ‘Koob Cafe’ changed Chris’s life. Shopping was now so easy, because the things that Chris needed to buy appeared at the ‘Koob Cafe’ without any need for searching them out. Travel plans, best flight options, cheapest train tickets, ideally located hotels, all just came to Chris, all that was left for Chris to do was to pay for them, and even then, Chris felt assured that the price being quoted was bound to be the best available. Chris now had hundreds of new friends too and was a regular at ‘Koob Cafe’, to which Chris introduced anyone and everyone, feeling that everyone would want to join its growing throng of merry patrons. Chris felt amazed by the great feeling brought about by being in touch with so many friends, old and new, through visits to the ‘Koob Cafe’. How great was this?! This is what the phrase ‘Café society’ must mean, thought Chris. What was even better was that ‘Koob Cafe’ were really happy to store any of Chris’s belongings for free, for however long Chris wanted. Chris could use them whenever they were required, but otherwise more and more of them were stored at ‘Koob Cafe’ meaning that Chris could now travel really light.
A few months later Chris was travelling for work and actually needed some of these belongings. Chris was staying in a fantastic hotel in Paris – recommended by Koob Cafe friends of course. However, when opening a cupboard in the hotel room, Chris found that all the belongings stored there looked like someone else had used them. When Chris enquired at reception about what might have happened, the receptionist replied that the hotel was a friend of ‘Koob Café’ and that the rules of ‘Koob Cafe’ that Chris had signed back in London, included a rule that meant that any friends of ‘Koob Cafe’ could use Chris’s belongings whenever they liked, had Chris not realised that every time belongings were given to ‘Koob Cafe’ in London they were used by any friends of the cafe all over the world?!
Chris thought about this and realised that there had been occasions when the belongings stored at ‘Koob Cafe’ had looked like someone else might have used them, there had even been the odd occasion when Chris thought that another Café friend had been using Chris’s belongings, but Chris had dismissed this as merely normal wear and tear, because ‘Koob Cafe’ was such a great place that there could not possibly be any risk that anyone’s belongings were not being treated with the utmost care. And after all, if Chris was nor actually using them, then why not let other people use them – what harm could this do? Actually, maybe there was some money to be made here – perhaps Chris could charge people for using these belongings. Chris suggested this to the hotel receptionist, who promptly fell of the chair laughing. “Don’t be silly, of course you can’t charge for them, that is what Koob Café do – how else do you think they pay the rent, the staff salaries and for all those free lunches, Anyone would think that you owned all your belongings the way you are talking now!?”
Chris felt sure there was no real need for concern. Loads of other people were doing the same thing. Chris’s children’s school and the local church were also regulars at ‘Koob Cafe’, so it must be ok. There had of course been that occasion when one of Chris’s new friends had put up those awful snuff movies on the walls of ‘Koob Cafe’, but in the end, they had been removed and surely no damage had been done? Chris nevertheless felt a bit glum and asked for a Harvey Wallbanger cocktail to quell the rising anxiety. “Oh, we don’t serve those here replied the hotel staff – you don’t like them.” Chris realised that it was an awfully long time since last ordering a Harvey Wallbanger, but that was not because of Chris’s liking or not liking the drink – it just had not been something that had been appropriate for the past few years and of course it was not served at the ‘Koob Cafe’. The hotel staff put a glass of Vodka and tonic in front of Chris and said “there, that is what you and most of your friends now like.”
It seemed that everywhere Chris went there was now a ‘Koob Cafe’ cafe, they were everywhere, it seemed. It was also increasingly difficult to remember how to make decisions about what one liked or didn’t like, or what might be the best option about travel, purchases, films, who to like or not like, who to trust and believe, even who to vote for! Chris felt like maybe deciding on such things was no longer needed, because there was always a ‘Koob Café’ friend who could provide information and advice. Chris wondered if schools even bothered teaching things like what evidence is, or how you know if something is true, or even what knowing something means – after all, what’s the point when someone else can make all the decisions you need to make for you?
For some unknown reason, after the trip to Paris, Chris kept having dreams about the old days when Chris’s parents were always warning the family about the non-existence of free lunches and being careful to protect one’s personal belongings. But nowadays one had so many belongings and it was so complex to manage it all that without ‘Koob Cafe’ how would one cope? There would have to be a whole new approach to education if one was going to have to take ownership of all one’s belongings all of the time and there was no sign of that happening so everything must be ok.
Chris decided that worrying was probably a waste of time, because ‘Koob Cafe’ was such a great thing, that had brought such pleasure and friends to so many people all over the world. Therefore it must surely be a jolly good thing, mustn’t it?
Photo by Joan Nova via creative commons

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One Response to “A tale for today: how much is a free lunch at the 'Koob Café'?”

  • 1
    John Mountford wrote on 23 March 2018:

    Simply brilliant!!! I have already shared this here, and in the US. Intelligent, insightful and thought provoking!!! My only problem is, how do those of us who are concerned about just how dysfunctional our education system is come together to overturn the established paradigm? The media interest in this course of action is nil and parents are left to make of it what they can in the face of state sponsored disinformation. Academics struggle to make their voices heard and professional educators are frightened for their careers.
    I have a grandson in year 7, having just emerged from the mind numbing SATs, already oppressed by the Oftsted rated outstanding school he now attends. It is hard to know how to respond when he is presented with homework that repeats what he has been doing in school all day – in his own words, more mind numbing.
    If we really want a more educated society that is capable of stemming the tide of corporate abuse, especially in the tech domain, we have to do something to ensure that politicians, who care not a jot about evidence, entrust the direction of education reform to those working in the field in cooperation with others.
    Roger Titcombe has the answer – time to apply the remedy??