Last night at bedtime we read the story of William Tell. I never knew – or, at least, did not remember – why it was, exactly, that old William shot an apple off his kid’s head. Maybe I didn’t pay closer attention to the finer details when I was a kid, or just forgot. But reading it as an adult, I am starting to get a sense of just how much history was glossed over for us as children. I definitely do not remember learning that he was made to do it by Albrecht Gessler simply for refusing to bow to Gessler’s hat perched atop a pole.
I think that lack of context is a shame. It’s important for the kids to see examples of both good and bad leadership, to help them navigate the murky waters between loyalty and personal freedom. Nothing is as black-and-white as we are taught in primary school. The fact that Will was able to hit the apple isn’t the important part of the story at all, even though it makes for a lasting mental image.