In the Spring of 2002, The SCRE Centre at the University of Glasgow was commissioned to conduct focus group research on behalf of the the Education, Culture, and Sport Committee at the Scottish Parliament. The study, which was conducted over a 3 month period, was intended to inform the Committee's inquiry into the purposes of education. Inquiries of this type are a common feature of the working practices of the Scottish Parliament. The aim of this particular one was to promote ‘an in‐depth discussion on key issues on the future direction of education’. The main theme of this paper is the dissonance between those who framed the inquiry and those who participated in the focus group study. The meanings of that dissonance are explored—as, briefly, are the conditions under which the research was conducted. The factors that contribute to mismatch in intention or meaning are also discussed. This study also comments on the continuing dominance of academic education in Scotland, and the consequences for those who see themselves as failures while subscribing to the centrality of education.