HomeOpinion & AnalysisThe tale of ugly sisters

The tale of ugly sisters

A long time ago, in a land far away, a beautiful girl called Cinderella lived with her stepmother, Lady Tremaine, and two stepsisters, Anastasia and Drizella. She had to work hard all day long so that the others could rest. One day the King and Queen of that land held a dance to find a bride for their son which excited Lady Tremaine greatly as she wanted one of her daughters to marry the Prince; both daughters felt sure she would be chosen. Meanwhile, Cinderella had to work even harder, which prevented her from going to the ball herself, until, that is, her Fairy Godmother made it all possible. The Prince fell for the beautiful Cinderella, much to the annoyance of the two stepsisters, and after searching far and wide for her, despite the best efforts of the two stepsisters, he found her. And so Cinderella and the Prince were married, and they lived happily ever after – as we all know!

by Tim Middleton

In a time more recent and in a land much closer, the same story has again unfolded. A beautiful girl called Innocence lived with her stepsisters, Ignorance and Arrogance. Innocence was hard-working, dignified, gracious, responsive and charming. The beauty of Innocence came from her inner sense, which was made up from insight and intuition. One day the King and Queen of Education came searching for a bride for their charming Prince Everychild. Ignorance and Arrogance were sure they would be the one who would be chosen but, what is this? No, they were not the one; Innocence was chosen and she lived happily ever after with the Prince.

But, no, we know that such is the stuff of fairy tales and fairy tales are not real. For in our real world, it would appear that the ugly sisters of Ignorance and Arrogance remain the ones who have dominance over Innocence. They are loud and domineering, hurtful and demeaning. They only think of themselves (if they think at all). One thing is clear, though: Ignorance and Arrogance are indeed closely related. In the real world ignorance comes from arrogance while arrogance actually stems from ignorance.

Ignorance is seen when we are so arrogant that we think we know everything and therefore do not bother to learn anything further. Of course this is perhaps further compounded by the fact that we perhaps do not know we are being arrogant, which only furthers the ignorance. What is more, we then become ignorant of the fact that we are ignorant! The point is this: we go to school in order to learn and the more we learn the more we will learn there is far more to learn than we ever imagined; the more we learn the more we realise how little we do in fact know. We must not be ignorant of this fact. Ignorance is not bliss; it is blunt, bleak and bland. It is ugly.

Arrogance equally comes from ignorance, for arrogance is when we believe that we know everything, that we are better than others, that we are above others and all norms of society, when clearly we are not. If we were not ignorant and knew anything, we would realise that any such knowledge that we have is a gift, one that is not given to all, and so one that we should be grateful for rather than take for granted, that we should use to help others and not to destroy, humiliate or undermine others. Arrogance, like Anastasia, is an ugly sister.

Ignorance and arrogance, as we see them, in turn dismiss innocence as a slave to their own end. They treat her as nothing; they mistreat her, and become jealous because they feel innocence is taking what is, in their view, rightly theirs. They dismiss her as nothing, something not worthy of any serious-minded person. However, we do well to remember (and to teach) that the truth is, ignorance and arrogance are not the winners; they do not win in the long run. They may go to the educational ball but they do not come away with what they desire, despite all their best efforts.

Yet who are we to say all this? Arrogance, perhaps? Or Ignorance? Or maybe even simply Romance? If any of us is wise, however, we will begin by reasserting that we do not know everything, that we have much to learn, that we are not better than others simply by virtue of our position, our loudness, our assertiveness. We will do all we can to ensure our children do not fall for the two ugly sisters but rather search high and low for the perfect match — the hand of innocence.

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