Monday, March 07, 2005

How Popular Education Works -1

I was surprised to find my version of the following story on a website i'd never heard of. My 14 year-old neice read it and said she liked it (and everyone knows what kind of critics teens can be - whew!). I first learned this story from dian marino (who taught at York University) and after telling it pretty steadily for 15 years i still can be surprised by this tale.

The Master Archer

There was once a general of war who was tired of fighting. He had spent his whole life perfecting his skill in all the arts of war, save archery. Now he was weary and wished to end his career as a fighter. So he decided that he would spend the rest of his days studying archery and he began to search far and wide for a master to study with.

After much journeying he found a monastery where they taught archery - he entered the monastery and asked if he could live there and study. He thought that his life was now over and the remainder of his days would be spent in study and meditation behind these monastery walls. He had been studying for ten years, perfecting his skill as an archer, when, one day, the abbot of the monastery came to him and told the former-general of war that he must leave. The former-general protested saying that his life in the world outside the monastery was over and that all he wished was to spend the rest of his days here. But the abbot insisted, saying that the general must now leave and go into the world and teach what he had learned.

The former-general had to do as he was told. Having nowhere to go when he left the monastery he decided to return to the village of his birth. It was a long journey and as he neared the village he noticed a bulls-eye on a tree with an arrow dead-centre. He was surprised by this only to notice more bulls-eyes on trees and, in the centre of each, an arrow. Then, on the barns and the buildings of the town he saw dozens, hundreds of bulls-eyes with arrows in the centre of each one.

The peace he had attained in tens years of monastic life had left him and he approached the elders of the town, indignant that after ten years of devoted study he should return to his own home and find an archer more skilled than he. He demanded of the elders that the master archer meet him by the edge of town in one hour. Waiting by the mill the general could see no one coming to meet him though he noticed a young girl playing by the river. The girl noticed him and came over.

"Are you waiting for someone," asked the girl looking up at the former-general.

"Go away," he said.

"No, no," said the girl, "you look like you're waiting for someone and I was told to come and meet someone here."

The former-general looked unbelievingly at the little girl and said, "I'm waiting for the master archer responsible for the hundreds of perfect shots I see around here."

"Then it is you i was sent to meet. I made all the shots," said the girl.

The former-general looked even more sceptical, convinced that this girl was trying to humiliate him. He said to the girl, "If you're telling the truth then explain to me how you can get a perfect shot every single time you shoot your arrow."

"That's easy," said the girl. "I take my arrow and I draw it back in the bow and point it very, very straight. Then I let it go and wherever it lands I draw a bulls-eye."

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