I'm reading this essay by John Taylor Gatto but couldn't understand the last sentence. Please help explain.

The third lesson I teach kids is indifference. I teach children not to care about anything too much, even though they want to make it appear that they do. How I do this is very subtle. I do it by demanding that they become totally involved in my lessons, jumping up and down in their seats with anticipation, competing vigorously with each other for my favor. It's heartwarming when they do that, it impresses everyone, even me. When I'm at my best I plan lessons very carefully in order to produce this show of enthusiasm. But when the bell rings I insist that they stop whatever it is that we've been working on and proceed quickly to the next work station. They must turn on and off like a light switch. Nothing important is ever finished in my class, nor in any other class I know of. Students never have a complete experience except on the installment plan.

What does this "installment plan" mean? Is it an analogy?

1 Answer 1


The 'installment plan' (instalment is the preferred UK spelling) is a method for people to pay, for things they wish to buy, in small portions (installments), e.g. weekly or monthly. Such schemes are often used for purchase of expensive things like cars, houses, high-end consumer goods, etc. The expression came to be used for a process that happened in steps or stages. if I ate a loaf of bread one slice at a time, over a period of time, I could say, jokingly, that I ate it 'on the installment plan'.

The teacher is saying that his students are encouraged to believe that their knowledge or understanding of anything will never be complete, but will increase in stages. It is a joke among users of installment plans that they will never be completed.

installment plan


An installment plan is a way of buying goods gradually. You make regular payments to the seller until, after some time, you have paid the full price and the goods belong to you.


in BRIT, use hire purchase

Installment plan (Collins Dictionary)

  • In the UK hire purchase is also known as "buying on the never never". You never stop paying and you never own the goods. The installments barely cover the interest, so you pay off the capital very slowly. Dec 29, 2022 at 10:05
  • @PeterJennings - it may seem as if you never own the goods. Example: washing machine £429 if you pay cash, or 36 monthly payments of £16.48. Total amount payable £593.28. Rate of interest 24.9% (3 years is not 'never'). Dec 29, 2022 at 10:22
  • can you explain what it means in this context ?
    – JoisBack
    Dec 29, 2022 at 10:46
  • 1
    @JoisBack - see edited answer. Dec 29, 2022 at 10:50
  • @MichaelHarvey Oh, agreed, I believe it's a fairly old BrE idiom (I've known of it for the best part of 80 years). Of course it was meant half jokingly. See idioms.thefreedictionary.com/the+Never+Never. I speculate that it stems from a time when credit and banking regulation were somewhat more lax. The unscrupulous lender could rig the payments so that it seemed to the borrower that they would never be rid of the debit. Dec 29, 2022 at 11:12

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