“The Apple and the Arrow” – Freedom and Schooling Pt.3

Ridicule and Ridiculous Tasks

In the middle of the story, William and Walter leave the inn and are walking through the village when they see a man bow before a hat on a pole. It is a “ducal hat” representing King Albrecht’s Austrian heritage. William feels that the man is acting lowly for bowing. He proudly walks by the pole and the soldiers stop him. They feel that he is being disrespectful for not bowing. William explains to the men that he is a “man of peace” and also finds it unnecessary to bow before mere cloth. The men try to make William bow. They put force against him and Walter and call them “braggarts and fools.” People of the town gather and eventually Governor Gessler comes.

Gessler’s first strategy was reverse psychology and he tried to paint a picture William as being too snooty to bow before his leaders. William resisted and insulted Gessler by saying he is a “man of peace” and that he will only bow humbly before true nobles and people that deserve respect like the holy men “and the good Lord himself.” This causes villagers to shout insults to Gessler, causing him to move on to his next strategy – the ridiculous task. He highlights William’s archery skills and challenges him to shoot an apple on Walter’s head. This puts villagers in a state of fear and even William feels weakened by this challenge, even calling Gessler “my lord” to give in, but Walter encourages him to go through with the task.

This scene reminds me of what happens at school when students stand up for themselves or others. The first thing the person in power will do is try to twist the students motives around with a “but I thought you were,” or, “it seems to me” sort of statement. Or the adult may try to forcibly move the student away from where they were. If the student untrips the statement the adult scrambled and students notice, thus rallying around with their full attention, then the teacher will resort to “making an example” out of the student for all to see. He or she will either give a authoritative speech, glare at the student, send them to a corner, or present a “prove how big you are” challenge that they hope the student will slip up on so that other students will know better than to challenge he or she next time. More often than not, the student will choke up and not know what to say under the intense stare, they back down, or they screw up on the challenge causing his or her peers to laugh or take pity while the act of oppression flies straight over their heads.

William suceeded and everyone cheered and called him a hero. If the student succeeds at proving themselves to the teacher or administrator, there is cheer, but just like Gessler in the story, that adult will keep going with more distracting tasks until the youth is put in their place. After the applause Gessler prodded on and it was discovered that William hid a second arrow to kill Gessler if he shot his son, Gessler sent William off to be imprisoned and finally made an example of him.

The Daring Few

Although William is captured he manages to retain enough ingenuity to still resist in any way he could. Very few students are like William. The only youth who would resist harsh treatment may only be those from non-restrictive schools, like democratic schools, or unschoolers and worldschoolers. Essentially this resistance can only come from people who are used to more freedom and independence in life, like William. When people grow up thinking for themselves and being largely responsible for making choices, they are better at critical thinking and coming up with innovative self-preserving solutions.

Into the Storm, the Mess Schools are in

Gessler and his soldiers are preparing to ship William off in chains on a lake that goes toward the castle. They notice that it is raining in the distance and that the waves look really high. “There were many hidden rocks, men said, where boats had sunk.” The soldiers expressed their concerns, but Gessler, intent on carrying out authority at all times remarked, “‘Enter the boats, men, and let us be off!'” Immediately they are out on violent waves, making them sick to the point of vomiting. For a while they go on like this until one soldier, Peter, pleads to let William, who knows the waters well and is not sick, to man the ship. One soldier’s pleas were not enough and so the few others present rally around Peter’s cause. Gessler is very sick at this point and allows them to unchain William.

I am not sure yet of who was doubtful of compulsory schooling and why, but as we can see, laws were passed and the system was carried into being. The state of this system today is like the storm Gessler ordered his soldiers into. We all know that things aren’t working in public schools (the world of private traditional education remains hidden to me at least). The testing, competition, and factory style course systems are wreaking havoc on students, teachers and parents emotionally and psychologically. There are constant waves of layoffs and budget and program cuts out here in California. The drop-out rates are not improving and there’s even talk about the “school to prison pipeline” for underachieving students in disadvantaged low income areas. We’re in peril, but it seems that the government wants to cover up this storm. People speak about education reform, but all I hear from such reformers is talk about charter schools, more discipline, competition, and more assessment or accountability. I only hear about using schools as preparation for yet another level in the future, rather than living life for what it is today. College. The workplace. Jobs. Money. That’s all the government cares about when it comes to school.

The Peter’s of this situation would be those of us who care about reform for the sake of the learner, not the institution and powers that be; we want dignity for the youth. We understand what is happening and in ways that go unnoticed, we plea for true change. Education is not about money or global schemes – education is about education. It is about practical life experiences and meeting friends and mentors along the way in developing a learner’s interests and inclinations. So now I ask, where are our other soldiers to rally with us? Alternative education is a fairly populated but slow moving movement that needs to be dropped on more ears, placed before more eyes, and ignited in more hearts.

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Posted on May 29, 2010, in Alternative Education, Bureaucracy, Education, School, Unschool, unschooling, worldschool and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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