The classroom was not invented as the best platform for imparting knowledge and skills to children. It arose out of the need to bring children together under discipline, safely - as much to free up their parents for work as for anything else.
Then, educational practice evolved as a response to the creation of the classroom. And it has got a lot better since I was at school.
I sat in a class of 36 children in front of a teacher at a blackboard, often distracted, occasionally dozing, sometimes having to put up with a skitter behind me firing rolled-up bus tickets at me from a "catty", a catapult improvised from a string of coloured elastic bands, and sometimes bumping my knees together because I needed a toilet and was afraid to put my hand up and say so.
I know it is different now. Children are not beaten with sticks, or leather straps, as we were. Indeed, the modern teacher who threw a duster at you would face criminal charges.
Even if he just pinched the small hairs above your ear, twisted them and lifted you out of your seat by them, he could be bringing his own career to an end.
Now, there are teaching assistants to sit with weaker children and help them along. But, still, the improved and modernised education that I have no personal acquaintance of remains an adaptation of an old practice; of bringing children together in groups that are manageable and presenting them with information.
The good teacher was the one who could make a personal connection with a child, despite the need to manage a whole classroom at the same time.
And everyone remembers bad teachers, the ones who were too fond of using the cane, or more commonly today, the one who made the cutting, demoralising remark that stuck in the mind as a hindrance to self-confidence ever after.
Once, we were asked in class what we wanted to be when we grew up. I think I was 14 at the time. I said I wanted to be a teacher. Indeed, I have done some teaching at college and university. The teacher scoffed and the whole class laughed.
I would not have been a good school teacher. Even dealing with post-graduate students in small groups, I found it hard work to hold their attention.
Turn your back for a minute to retrieve a book from your case and they are all chatting among themselves and then take time to settle again.
The ideal situation for teaching someone is to sit alone with them. And that opportunity arises in school and in university occasionally, but never as part of the core working practice. That remains the classroom, or the lecture theatre.
Now, Gerry Adams, a man I often disagree with, has a striking maxim that we should pay attention to, given that it has served his own political longevity so well. Never waste a crisis, he says.
Today, children are not in their classrooms. They are at home, living under social distancing rules. Their teachers are still in contact with them and they are supposed to be continuing with their studies.
And there has been much discussion on the Nolan shows of the past week about how well, or badly, this is working out.
Some argue for the recreation of the classroom through the internet, so that children continue with the experience of following a timetable and receiving lessons collectively. And maybe some teachers are doing that.
There are a few reasons I think that is the wrong approach. For one thing, the digital classroom, like Zoom, is a headache. It is one of the big discoveries of the lockdown.
I have been in business meetings, done a quiz, taken part in music and arts sessions, read stories and I joined the audience of a Tenx9, now Zoomx9.
Zoom is tolerable for about an hour at most. After that, it begins to erode your brain. The little irritations of people talking over each other, connections slipping, the various levels of image and sound quality between people; these all accumulate in annoyance until you just have to get away from it.
We would do damage to our children if we put them into large groups like that and tried to hold them together for hours. It would be far better to make creative use of the crisis.
That's how the classroom itself came into being, to meet the need to round up children and drum some information into them. And corporal punishment followed from that, because children did not want to be in class on sunny days and had far better ideas of their own about how they might learn about the world.
Who learnt more, Tom Sawyer mitching and fishing, or exploring caves, or the obedient kids in class, wrestling with quadratic equations, whatever they are?
We did geology at school as part of our geography lessons without ever holding a fossil in our hands. We studied market gardening in the Hampshire basin without ever having to go further than the corner to buy our own cabbages. Of course, we also dissected worms, frogs and a cow's eyeball, so I am not disparaging the experience entirely.
And some of the teachers who were most brutal also had their inspiring moments. One teacher, who caned me for bad handwriting, also got the class to write a play together and through that I discovered that I have a facility for reproducing dialogue that not everyone else has.
But, as the classroom evolved from difficult social conditions, so a new way of teaching should evolve from lockdown.
And while it took the classroom hundreds of years to evolve into the best that it now can be, maybe other ideas would evolve faster.
The opportunity in this crisis is to let children express their own creativity and learn things they wouldn't learn in class.
So, if one makes a chair, or writes a song, or bakes a cake, or records a video, or paints a still life of a water jug, or a learns to walk a tightrope, then all of these - and many others - would be real advances in education that they could be given some credit for.
They will have to learn on their own in later life, whether as self-starters in self-employment or students at university. The classroom system is a hindrance to them developing that skill.
That's why so many struggle with university and drop out. This crisis imposes a new way on them. They should make the best of it.