Compare and contrast the educational experiences that Billy has during his day at school. How are the experiences that Billy has in school important to the novel and what do you think Barry Hines trying to say about education in the 1960s? Free essay! Download now
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Compare and contrast the educational experiences that Billy has during his day at school. How are the experiences that Billy has in school important to the novel and what do you think Barry Hines trying to say about education in the 1960s?
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| Words: 1500 | Submitted: 23-Mar-2009
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Description"A Kestral for a Knave" ("Kes") essay about Billy Casper's school experiences
Billy’s school day follows the pattern of: Registration; Assembly; English; Break; P.E.; lunch; Maths; Youth Employment Interview. He undergoes during the day what seems to be a succession of negative and damaging experiences.
Throughout the day Billy is subjected to violence, something that is against the law in our day and age, but which was legal in the 1960s: Mr Gryce canes him (for falling asleep); MacDowell, the school bully, picks a fight with him at breaktime; Mr Sugden hits him repeatedly - with a football (which he drops on his head “as though he was murdering him with a boulder” because Billy has no kit and which he later throws at Billy for his “slack work” in letting in a goal), with his hands (when Billy lies by telling him he has had a shower) and then by turning the cold shower on him (as his “punishment” for throwing the football game away), and Mr Gryce hits him again in the afternoon (for missing his Youth Employment interview). To some of the teachers, this violence is presumably meant to “teach Billy a lesson” in the sense of instilling some discipline. However, because it is often so unfairly inflicted, I doubt if it teaches this to Billy at all. It is ironic that Mr Gryce himself should comment:
“I continue using the cane, knowing full well you’ll be back time and time again for some more”
This rather begs the question that if Mr Gryce himself knows that the cane doesn’t work, why does he use it? If you can call these examples of physical abuse “educational experiences”, I suppose that Billy is learning how people in power (like teachers) can exploit and abuse their power and how adults can dominate small children through fear. Adults can even use their physical dominance for sadistic and malicious purposes (as Mr Sugden does). It’s kind of ironic that Hines should compare Billy entering the showers after football to a child entering the gas chambers at a Nazi concentration camp, especially when we find out that he is going to be tortured too. Negatively, one assumes that the cycle will repeat itself and Billy will probably grow up to mistreat his own children (after all, what else does he know?)
Even the “good” teacher, Mr Farthing, uses physical violence, but the difference is that he chooses his targets and his intentions are better than those of the other teachers. In the case of the fight on the yard, he uses it to show MacDowell, the school bully, what it feels like to be picked on:
“ ‘What would you say if I pinned you to the floor and smacked you across the face?’ Jab. Jab. ”
During the same break time, Billy sums up what the teaching is like in school when he speaks to Mr Farthing about the teaching staff:
“They’re not bothered about us … They’re always callin’ us idiots, an’ numbskulls, an’ cretins, an’ lookin’ at their watches to see how long it is to t’ end o’ t’lesson.”
We see during the day plenty of evidence that what Billy says here is true. His P.E teacher thinks nothing of insulting Billy with sarcastic references to his lack of intelligence:
“I bet that was stimulating for him, wasn’t it?”
By mimicking and mocking him:
“Every lesson it’s the same old story, ‘Please, Sir, I’ve no kit.”
By making a public spectacle of him (when he makes him dress publicly in over-sized shorts) and by his shocking repertoire in verbal abuse:
“You look as if you’ve had thalidomide!”
“You lying rat!”
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