Tadpoles, Frogs and Dragons; The Educational Philosophy of David Seagrave

By means of a short introduction to this piece of writing, something is worth saying of its author David Seagrave who passed away in 2019.  In the time which I had come to know David and share in his social friendship, I came to understand him as a profound exemplar of the kind of self motivation which is rare in the world.

David Seagrave
David Seagrave


I recall first meeting him when he walked into an event, saying what he was to delight and perplex people with many times – ‘Hello, my name is David Seagrave; I have Asperger’s Syndrome and I have got a false leg…’, he raised one leg off the ground and slapped it before continuing: ‘I made my own britches to keep my false leg on…’ – and he carried myself and others into a torrent of information about what he had been thinking about.


Sadly he died in 2019 at the goodly age of 78 and left people with a vast legacy of writings, photography, hand made models and other creative endeavours.  He was one of the most active people I have met and if he was not walking in his beloved hills where he found so much peace and pleasure, he would be attending a wide array of community groups where he would participate.


Towards the end of his life I had several long conversations with him about his philosophy and the work which he had created.  His deepest wish, he expressed to me, was to make available the creative works he had made to the world – and most importantly, to the ‘Aspie Community’ which were very important to him.  Worth noting is the longitudinal conversation he had about his general philosophy of what he called ‘Contributionism’ which he had thought out in great detail.


Now whilst a range of people did not ‘get’ David because the vigor and sometimes gargantuan spree of thoughts which he tried to fit into each breath, over time I learned to be a better active listener.  Through active listening I came to see that what David was trying to share was a lifetimes synthesis of the best he could give to world.  I am going to try and live up to his wishes by sharing some of what he shared with me and the Ragged University community.


Over the past 12 years of doing Ragged University and thinking about the philosophy, logistics and practice of learning and education I have come to understand David Seagrave as having developed a very important philosophy and character.  I think he engendered what many fail to do in the emersion and operationalising of the values he spoke.  What follows is an article David wrote along with a conversation I recorded with him about his thinking.

Yours aye, Alex Dunedin

In previous essays I have referred to 3 states of human development –

Tadpole people – those with hardly any education who can only just about survive because they have not developed their brainpower or cannot understand anything beyond a reading age of 11.


Frog-people who are literate and able to cope with the world as we find it yet lack the capacity to think critically so they are incapable of original works or equally incapable of criticizing governments ,employers ,they go with the flow , their principle is MY MASTER RIGHT OR WRONG My father was such a man whose horizons were narrowed by the religious dogma which he tried to force down my throat.


And finally dragon people who have mastered critical thinking and so become capable of original work – creative synthesis – leaving their mark on this world as people who change society for the better. I hope that my analysis of personality development will lead to action to promote critical thinking in the way Wise Canon Norwood moulded my character.


In my Socrates Of Charford storyline, Alan Wright teaches his pupils how to THINK CRITICALLY like I and supposedly he were taught at Red Hill School. Alan is supposed to teach his pupils TO BE OFFENDED by what is by common consent the headlong rush into that self inflicted stupefaction I call GRICEHOOD. He has access to all manner of teaching aids and so he and his team including his WIFE AND SON produce all that is necessary for all children who on earth do dwell to learn Critical Thinking IF THEY ARE ALLOWED TO.


I describe the hapless alumni of a local Catholic high school who are always getting into trouble and prove to be utterly incompetent at their work so is small surprise that the alumni of Alan’s son Bob s school – Friarshill School – dominate the professional life of Avalonshire and as a Holy Synergy ensure that Avalonshire is competently administered and Friarshill school itself is staffed by Old Friarshillians of whom the leader is Bob the schools most illustrious alumnus.


Am I writing twaddle ? Or is my storyline a template for a reformed, humane alternative society and also a path whereby stigmatised people can adopt what I advocate and like leading characters rise beyond stigmatisation to prosper and flourish in a post-industrial society as truly people who have grown dragons wings ?


My thesis stands or falls on the premise that absolutely everybody can be motivated to improve themselves after undergoing convulsive paradigm shifts that open their minds to higher realities – such as a day out on Ben Shian where everybody can behold landforms not perceptible from the valley floor.


If people can grasp this principle which PLATO explains in his parable of the people in the cave can they necessarily “grow their dragons wings“ by systematic study and opening their minds to the wider world which Alan and I dwell in – the Higher Reality arising from full development of our faculties?


David Seagrave Dunfermline Library 13-4-13


Here is a small video of a conversation with the man himself.  I’d like to think that it would make him happy

YouTube player