This is not going to be a research paper. I'm choosing this occasion to raise some fundamental concerns I have about the moves towards the recognition of prior learning, the assessment of prior achievements or whatever we choose to call it. I was tempted to call the paper From enthusiast to sceptic: the confessions of an advocate of RPL, but that is too strong, because I still believe in the principles. My concerns mainly centre on the failure to apply the principles and the failure to address the associated problems. Some of you will have read a report I wrote about four years ago The school of hard knocks (Thomson, 1988). I invented a woman, Barbara X, who had impeccable qualifications for child care work, but no formal training whatsoever. I created a portfolio for Barbara detailing her skills and talents and asked three colleges teaching child care to consider giving her exemption from at least some of their courses. The response at that time was fairly negative. The worst comment being along the lines that she did not deserve any credit because `It would take us a long time to get her to unlearn the things she had already learned as a mother before we could begin to teach her anything?'.