Saturday, December 12, 2009

The worst teacher in Walnut Grove history

I mentioned this Little House on the Prairie episode in a previous post on the epic, enjoyable, not-always-faithful-to-the-geography-of-southern-Minnesota show.

This shows Charles Ingalls at his finest. I couldn't find the episode before, but now we can see this man of morals standing up for what's right on the prairie.

Miss Beadle, the blond bombshell, finds herself unable to control the unruly children, including Willie Oleson at his most annoying, a poster child for corporal punishment in the classrooms. The shrill Harriet Oleson reminds Miss B. that "when harvest ends" there will be even larger misbehaving boys for her to handle.

Enter Mr. Applewood, the substitute teacher from every child's nightmares. Throw a spitball at this guy, and it's likely to end up shoved down your mouth.

Poor half-pint. Laura immediately stumbles into trouble because she gets stuck with a note disparaging the new teacher, although the insult is simply a cliched play on the guy's name: Crab-Apple. Walnut Grove children could be brutal, if not witty. He takes out his trusty weapon - a wooden ruler - and whacks her on the hand, seemingly enjoying it a bit too much. Then a juvenile ink prank torments Applewood, leading to more punishment for Laura. In fact, the ultimate punishment: expulsion. The guy might have been a hard-ass but his detective skills were severely lacking. Not only did he ignore the back entrance to the school, but he seems unaware of the likely suspects. Just look into Willie Oleson's eyes and you see the definition of a troublemaker and future delinquent.

One of the odd things in this episode is the three brutes in the background, the terrible trio Miss Beadle was apparently unable to handle. I understand the school was for kids of all grades. But these guys appear to be closer to 30 than 15. If they haven't learned to read at this point and haven't yet figured out how to spell Lincoln, it's time to let them stay in the fields.

Finally, just past the six-minute mark, Charles enters to shut down Applewood's reign of domestic terror. When he walks in on Applewood preparing to hammer Laura again - this time with a much, much larger and more lethal weapon - Walnut Grove's conscience steps in. Charles breaks the instrument, and Applewood's control of the school.

Miss Beadle returns, this time with a better understanding of how to control her middle-aged problem children.

Later, she'd send some of these same children to their death in a classic Minnesota snowstorm. But today was her day to shine.

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