“We need mental cereal to nourish fresh thinking vectors for normative foundationalist-empiricist instrumentalism”

Phillip Trellop in ‘Wazzochism: A Collision of Post-Modern Educational Spheres’


The origins of Wazzochism lie in Cornwall in the mid-nineteenth century among a community of teaching scholars who emigrated from London to St. Ives. Initially drawn there by the “amazing blue of the sea and stunning blue of the sky” (see ‘Memoirs of a Wazzochist’ Barrington, 1924) they became heavily influenced by the perceived wisdom of local Wesleyan preachers, tin miners and crab fishermen.  A local schoolmistress showed them the writings of the German philosopher-priest Wapp who proposed the term ‘androgogy’ in 18311.  Showing the lucid perception that set them apart as arguably the greatest educational theorists west of Menheniot, they pointed out that the Greek derivation somewhat contradicted the actual practice and thus framed their revolutionary proposal of setting teaching theory on a sound empirical basis.

The etymology of Wazzockist is shrouded in the mists of time, most scholars agree it is a corruption of the Cornish slang for ‘one who commands’ (Willis, 1971) or ‘one who talks’ (Edmonds, 1975).  The newly-arrived teachers often heard the locals using it and decided to adopt it as their own, although as the movement spread the spelling was altered by the metropolitan educational elite to ‘Whassochæsm’ to suit Victorian sensibilities (Willis, 1971).  In this text, we will retain the root form of Wazzochism.  Note that it was not until 1978 that the Society for Educational Wazzochism and the Society for the Advancement of Whassochæsm, finally united under the uncomfortable compromise of the Wassochist Educational Trust.  With the formation of the WET an enterprise wing was founded to raise funds from the sale of merchandise and resources such as WET textbooks, WET software, WET stationary, WET t-shirts etc.  The proceeds are disbursed by a committee dedicated to ‘furthering educational research and impact informed by WET thinking’.

1This was later appropriated by Knowles and its true origins largely forgotten.

Educational Theory

Student-Teacher interaction vectors

Many models of teaching and learning assume a linear, unidirectional or bidirectional interaction between student and teacher (Fig. 1).


Figure 1. Interactions between student and teacher.

From the outset, Wazzochist theorists were troubled by the dichotomy between a two dimensional educational model and its application to a multi-dimensional world. One of the earliest goals of Wazzochism (indeed it has been suggested this remains its seminal achievement, see Laker 1948) was to reconcile this paradox. The model depicted in figure 2 is a two-dimensional extended projection of the actual structure, interested readers should consult Lewis & Cook (2006) for details of how to reconstruct the full colorimetric vector in three-dimensional space.


Figure 2. Extended projection of colorimetric multi-dimensional student-teacher interaction space.

This was the first – and still the only – model to include the Coriolis effect in teaching theory, circular arrows should be reversed for teachers in the Southern Hemisphere. Teachers in equatorial regions should flush the toilet before class and proceed accordingly.

Carmichael-Tregonnick Decision Window

The interaction of the first Wazzochists with their new environment has been alluded to and the impact on their philosophy is possibly nowhere more clearly demonstrated than in the Carmichael-Tregonnick Decision Window. We shall let Carmichael explain the provenance in his own words taken from his diaries (The Diaries of J.Q. Carmichael, in ‘Wazzochist Writing’ ed. Lever, 1970).

“…the village grocer, one Pirran Tregonnick esq., advertised his victuals upon a sheet of paper affixed to the store window, divided into quadrants. Thus he would display the availability of his purveyance, namely pasties, (a popular local delicacy of which I was previously ignorant) as (i) beef & onyon [sic]; (ii) beef; (iii) onyon; (iv) solde out. I found my mind ruminating upon whether perchance this same rustic perception could be applied to education…”

Figure 3i A sketch by Carmichael of Tregonnick’s grocery.
Courtesy of Wazzochist Historic Archive Trust
Figure 3ii Carmichael’s original outline of the Carmichael-Tregonnick decision window.
Courtesy of Wazzochist Historic Archive Trust

Carmichael realised that his learners could be in one of four states: awake and listening; awake and not listening; asleep and listening; asleep and not listening (fig. 3). Learners begin a teaching session at the midpoint and the task of the teacher is to steer them towards the upper-right quadrant for their learning to be maximally effective. He acknowledged his debt to the inspiration provided by Tregonnick by publishing the model under the title of the Carmichael-Tregonnick Decision Window. Tragically, Tregonnick passed away four months after it was published in the prestigious Journal of Applied Wazzochism and he was never aware of how his name would spread to every corner of the educational firmament. The deceptively simple method of taking two pairs of conditions and listing the four possible permutations of their occurrence has been employed in a host of modern teaching models such as Maslow’s Four Stages of Competence and the Eisenhower Matrix. The beauty and utility of this model was summed up by Tyson (1954) who wrote: ‘to the casual observer it may seem like repeated rehashing of stating the blindingly obvious but to the educational scholar it is a perfect encapsulation of the ability of Wazzochism to highlight and define fundamental truths underpinning the fabric of educational theory’.

Gloyne’s flipped classroom

Since its inception Wazzochism has been a broad church and a pioneer in equal opportunity, certainly when compared to the prevailing Victorian social mores. At a broad cultural level this can be seen in the ground-breaking but sadly short-lived Educating Devonians Initiative begun in the late 1860s. Quite why it fell apart has never been satisfactorily resolved.  Plans to extend the scheme to Somerset met with resistance that this was ‘too far, too fast’ (Marks, 1982) although others have claimed that the adoption of technology-assisted learning, such as the new ‘telephone’ would have facilitated this spread. It is likely that cultural barriers were underestimated, indeed the nature of these are themselves contentious and the schism between proponents of Hammett’s ‘Cream-jam’ conjecture and Penrose’s ‘Jam-Cream’ hypothesis remains unbridged today (for a review see Fraser & Stephenson, 1989).

At an individual level, there are few better illustrations of the progressive nature of Wazzochism than Nora Gloyne, a Polperro schoolmistress. Gloyne was a firm believer in basing learning on the immediate environment such as the local geography, flora and fauna. She recalls how one day she was asking pupils to draw a seagull perched by the classroom window. Due to the fixed nature of the desks some students’ view of the gull was obscured so she placed a mirror adjacent, enabling all to see it. When reviewing the artwork later, she noticed that whereas the majority showed the seagull turning its head away, those who had used the mirror depicted the seagull holding a fish in its beak. She realised that these pupils had, in her words, ‘flipped the bird’, expressing themselves in a different way to their peers and displaying a different learning outcome. Her true insight lay in realising the broader applications, that viewing a concept from different angles could lead to a greater variety of ideas and new knowledge. She was such an enthusiastic exponent of this principle that she was soon affectionately known as ‘Flipping Nora’ by her Wazzochist peers. She went on to become a leading thinker in the movement and the definitive collection of her diaries, letters and scholarly articles, annotated by her contemporary Jonah Lewern, now in its 12th edition, is an essential part of any educational library.

Curriculum design

Cringler’s Circle of Change.

Cringler’s Cricle of Change is the keystone of Wazzochist curriculum design (Lloyd, 1974 and refs. therein). Any teaching or content that remains unchanged for more than one academic year is defined as outdated and must be reviewed. Therefore, for each aspect of the course, multiple alternatives are suggested and communicated to staff, sometimes in full, sometimes in fragments (which may or may not be mutually contradictory) for their informed consideration.

Naturally many of the proposals are rapidly identified as being totally unworkable, this does not preclude them from further analysis, rather it confirms exploration of the entire learning opportunity enhancement matrix. Using Binomial Unguided Random Progression (also known as the coin-toss paradigm, often shortened to ‘toss’) two suggestions are mooted as the most likely options for implementation. After a suitably prolonged period, it should become clear that the original situation is the ideal solution, the locus optimus. Establishing the locus optimus concludes the circle of change and should trigger a period of reflection, introspection and solipsism. This fertile pensive ground nourishes the seeds of subsequent circles of change linked in the educational spiralum perpetuum with which Wazzockism has become synonymous.

The learning journey

Teaching is constrained by assuming a linear temporal flow which places often irreconcilable burdens on timetabling (May & Howard 1951). The Wazzockist solution is to view all learning objectives within a course as points defined by a multi-dimensional matrix. The role of the teacher is to guide the student as they travel between these loci with the actual route being unimportant. In this way a student could sit their final exams at the outset of their journey, all subsequent learning is then enhanced by being free of the threat of assessment. There is much debate over whether assessment drives learning; the Wazzockist multi-dimensional matrix uncouples this tension. The initial model was based on Cartesian cubic co-ordinates, later thinkers have developed spherical systems, fuzzy clouds and most recently a hypercubic multi-state quantum model in which the learner can theoretically be studying all or none of the learning issues simultaneously. So far it has been impossible to confirm this model experimentally as the process of observing the learner causes them to collapse.

Lecturer duality theory

The explosion in atomic research in the 1930s impacted all walks of life and Wazzochism was no exception, falling under the spell of Heisenberg, Bohr and Einstein in the form of Lecturer Duality Theory. Formulated by Norman ‘Jack’ Russell in 1937, it was slow to catch on but is now implemented in almost every higher education establishment. Many commentators have noted that were there a Nobel Prize for Education, LDT would have earned one for Russell. The goal of LDT is to get oneself timetabled for two different sessions simultaneously and turn up for neither whilst your colleagues at each location assume you must be at the other one.

Law of diminishing administrative returns

This law relates to the time taken to account for every hour of the academic working week and thus, in accordance with Wazzochist tenets, provide evidence for having delivered teaching and learning2. The time spent must be allocated to a series of various ambiguous categories which itself requires a sub-category of time taken to fill in forms. The completion of this sub-category itself takes time and must be accounted for necessitating a further subdivision to be completed. This takes a finite amount of time and so a further subdivision is generated which takes time to fill in and so on and so forth. Eventually the teacher is spending their entire time filling forms to account for their time and a Fundament Singularity is reached. The entire process collapses in on itself as 100% of time can finally be allocated to administrative tasks (publicly-funded, teaching-related and associated scholarly activities).

2Some Wazzochists prefer the phrase ‘learning and teaching’, in a bid to pre-empt a possible schism, WET has ruled that either is acceptable

Cultural impact

Special educational status

The recent announcement that the Cornish are now recognised as a minority population will have significant implications for the study and practice of Wazzochism. Although its influence now permeates every aspect of modern educational practice, its roots and indeed many of its current leading exponents are firmly based in Kernow (see Taylor & Root, 2012 for an in-depth review). Some scholars have been concerned that the history of Wazzochism may be diluted or even expropriated leading to the ignominious argument and counter-argument that sully the humble pasty.

The Wazzochist Education Trust has been vigorously petitioning the Culture Secretary, European Union and UNESCO for cultural recognition of the contribution Wazzochist thinkers have made to facilitating the fostering of contemporary educational practice and its inextricable links to the Cornish landscape and people. Once its protected status has been confirmed, Wazzochism, like the finest cheeses, will be D.O.C. This appellation will entitle Wazzochist scholars to access dedicated cultural funding to support museum exhibitions, research bursaries and public engagement schemes.

To commemorate this seminal moment, the Annals of Wazzochist Education is publishing a special review edition which will archive the origins of the movement, examine its ongoing influence on modern educational practice and speculate upon what the philosophy can tell us about the future of teaching and learning.

Once confirmed, the final table of contents will be made immediately available through Ann. Wazz. Ed. Advance Online Publications. Proposed titles include:

  • Wazzochism: What it was, what it is, what it could be.’ Foreword to ‘Special Edition celebrating Wazzochist Cultural Recognition’ by AWE Editor-in-Chief, Collette Treagher.
  • Distance learning correspondence of P.Q.R. Cringler volume 1 (1890-1892), the first MOOC?’ – Peter Harte.
  • The Fennel Plot and other statistical approaches to Wazzochism.’ – Leigh Trewithan & Allan Trewheedon.
  • Kernow GTA and the shaping of educational and cultural perceptions through online media.’ – Thomas Nichols.
  • Concept maps in the age of Google Maps, a global threshold concept.’ – Carol Wracker.
  • What can Problem-Based Learning teach us about Team-Based Learning? A Structured Small Group Learning approach to Evidence-Based Learning.’ – PJ Younger.
  • Don’t think outside the box. Flatten it and recycle it.‘ – Penelope Wharfdale.
  • Mental processing by neural pathways in the brain during thinking behaviour. Cognitive insights from Wazzochism.‘ – Gerry Hobert.
  • DR.eaM$: A WET strategy to raise aspiration among early-career educationalists.The WET Impact Review Working Group.