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A (Not-so-Authentic) Medieval Adventure

Updated on September 28, 2016
Dean Traylor profile image

Dean Traylor is a freelance writer and teacher. He is a former journalist who has worked on various community and college publications.

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Part 1

The trumpets blared and every royal dignitary, aristocrat, and foreign representative in the castle’s vast hall came to a hushed silence.

"This is the moment,” Tulliver whispered to his pupils, "so pay close attention, and show the utmost respect."

Tulliver and his pupils were an odd assortment of teens who didn’t dress or look like the others in attendance. Oddly, not one of the elegantly dressed guests paid any attention to these out-of-place visitors. It was as if the teacher and his students were invisible.

Tulliver turned to one student, Trevor Marks: "I especially expect you to play along."

Trevor rolled his eyes and stated sarcastically: “I thou shalt play."

Tulliver bit his lips. He was in no mood to discipline his most difficult - and smartest - pupil. Besides, the reason he and his other students were in the royal court of King Fredrick was about to begin.

A short man with a huge scroll entered the royal court. The cardinal, Prince Charles, his groomsmen, and several members of the king’s royal knights followed him. The wedding party took their places. The knights, in the shiniest armor ever conceived, took their positions in columns on each side of the aisle.

Although those of importance were in the dais (which converted into a make-shift wedding alter), the short man was front and center. All eyes fell upon him.

"Who is that?" one of the students asked.

"Probably a bard, or the jester," Trevor responded. “Heck, with that roll of paper he’s probably got a big, fat…”

"Quiet!” Tulliver hissed from his pursed lips.

The bard unfurled the scroll and began reading.

"Hear ye all," he proclaimed. "This here on this finest of days, we see the joining of two young lovers of the purest of thy heart!"

Purest of hearts? Prince Charming? Trevor glanced at the chiseled physique of the handsome prince. He couldn’t help but think how looks can be deceiving. Wasn't he really a murderer, thief, and cheat who nearly brought down a powerful kingdom? The realization bothered him.

The bard continued; this time, he was accompanied by the music of the troubadours (the same ones who had previously started the festivities with gallant stories of the king's exploits – real and imagined).

"And on this, the fairest of days, our lord has blessed us; the good lady Princess Penelope will grace us with her beauty.”

On cue, the doors to the chamber sung open. Princess Penelope, with her beaming father, King Fredrick, entered to the glees and gasps from the audience.

The bride and father made their way down the aisle. As they did so, each knight raised their swords high, forming arches of gleaming metal.

By now, all in attendance were spying the radiant beauty of the bride. She was decked out in the finest silk gown, gems, jewels and the most piercing gaze in the world.

Her appearance was so stunning that even the students responded. The females, in particular, gushed with delight at this sight.

Then again, everyone in attendance seemed to have fallen under her spell. That is all, but one person. Trevor could only think of the discrepancies. From what he had recalled from his own books was that Princess Penelope was no fair maiden. In fact, if he remembered, her doting father sent her to a convent to “cleanse her soul of sins.”

The wedding proceeded in all its pageantry. The women in the crowd cried for joy. The men watched with glazed eyes. It was a major event from the moment the bride entered the room to the point the couple exchanged their vows.

The students were enamored by this as well. That is, except for the 17-year-old in ripped jeans and purple hair. Trevor had enough of this fairytale romance stuff. He uttered his thought loud and clear.

“BORING!"

And with that declaration, he terminated this “visit” to a royal wedding by ripping off his visor and headset to the virtual reality program, and returned to the dark and cold setting of reality.

Trevor seethed. History, in particular medieval history, used to be his favorite virtual reality subject at school. Now, it was a joke.

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Part 2

His actions were abrupt, spontaneous. He had tuned out of a virtual reality lesson before and had received harsh punishments for doing so. However, as he glanced around the classroom, he noticed that all the students and the teacher, Mr. Tulliver, were still plugged-in and engaged in that “fairytale” disguised as history. Punishment, this time, wasn’t coming his way.

Trevor seethed. History, in particular medieval history, used to be his favorite virtual reality subject at school. Now, it was a joke.

It wasn’t like this, at one time. Trevor had been a member of the first generation of students to be weaned on virtual reality. He grew up fast, intellectually, and had seen and experienced curriculum as if it was a living entity. School was exciting, fun, and adventurous. Best yet, there were many titles on the same subjects to choose from. Some contradicted each other, but that was okay. Subjects like history actually prospered from that. As a result, one could not only gain knowledge on a subject; they could foster critical and independent thinking.

He ruminated for a moment; maybe there are a few apps still in existence that showed the dark, but honest side of medieval history. He turned to the touch-screen on his desk and started scrolling though the titles. He was greatly disappointed at what he saw.

The titles were “The Finer Point of Jousting,” “How to be Chivalrous Knight”, and “Let’s Go on the Crusades! Trevor groaned at the sight of each one. The influence of the Moralist Party was apparent.

The emergence of the Moralist Party was a nail-in-the-coffin for free education via virtual reality. This group complained loudly that the youth were being subjugated to violent images, controversial topics, and “propaganda” meant to “destroy the moral fabric” of society (Trevor remembered the group had a tough time backing up the latter claims – still they found something – often moot in nature, to embolden their attacks).

First, they pressured school boards. The board members often caved in and had the textbook apps, or virtual textbooks, heavily edited or removed. Images of bloody conflicts were the first to go. Then, they targeted suggestive language (which proved to be confusing for Trevor to understand, considering that derogatory words were vast and often generalized in meaning).

Soon, the party took over the local school boards, and then the state boards, and eventually national offices. Under the guise of educational reform, they slashed budgets for apps and virtual reality technology upgrades, promoted other programs with a messages they deemed “positive” and morally correct, and laid out numerous rules and regulations for teachers and administrators to follow (in a sense, turning them into scripted chaperones, rather than guides or experts on a subject). Facts, in many cases, became a casualty.

Virtual reality education had become sanitized and pedestrian. There were no frills or dangers. In particular, history went from being ugly, controversial and dangerous, to being meek, empty, and –worst of all - safe.

Trevor knew, even at his age, that the lesson of the day was a distortion meant to teach the sanctity of marriage rather than the cold facts of medieval life. So far, he saw nothing about the Black Plague, the witch hunts, Inquisitions, or the real stories of the crusades in the apps supplied to his schools. Instead, the apps he had were character-building lessons, at best.

He thought to himself: What’s the use of learning history?

He sat back in his chair. Again, he glanced at his peers, and then at the teacher. Mr. Tulliver (probably had a lot to teach the class. But, his powers had been taken away, Trever surmised) The teacher didn’t bother to check that Trevor wasn’t in the virtual world. He probably stopped checking a long time ago. A frustrated grumpy teacher didn't become that way overnight. It didn't take a leap of imagination to know what exactly caused this.

Trevor felt a tug on his arm. He turned to see Barry. Although he was a poor student, he was extremely bright. A computer whiz and a hacker, he often had bootleg programs at his disposal.

“Got bored of that?” Barry whispered.

“Tell me about it,” Trevor agreed. “Have something better than this?”

Barry took a cursory glance around the classroom: “You know me.”

He produced a flash-drive.

Trevor took it from him: “What is it?”

“It’s entitled: The Flagellators.” Said Barry “It’s hard to believe people would do that to themselves during the middle ages. It makes you wonder about all this moral stuff being shoved down our throats these days.”

Trevor had heard of them. They were zealots, he recalled. He learned a little bit about them from the wild, wild world of virtual education of days past. He wanted to know more.

He took the drive from Barry.

“Get ready for a real education,” Barry said with a grin.

Trevor placed the flash-drive into a port in his desk, and then grabbed the visor.

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Part 3

Once on, Trevor entered a new and dark world.

The streets of the village were muddy and dirty. Smoke from various pyres obscured the sun. The moans of the dying, infirmed victims of the black plague were heard loud and clear. He could see them as well: their sores, their suffering.

In the distance, Trevor heard the distinctive sounds of whips snapping against skin, as well as the moans and pleas of men calling for God’s mercy.

“So this is the real middle ages,” Trevor said to himself as he saw a row of bloodied and pathetic looking flagellators emerged from the smoke-filled streets. Nearly every second, they were bringing down the whips on their own bloody back.

It was ugly. It was frightening. It was as real as it could get. It made Trevor think – as Barry stated – why anyone would do that to themselves.

Yes, he thought and wondered. And, he applied that concept to world the real world he happened to live in.

Trevor sighed in relief. He was finally learning history, again.

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The Problem with Teaching History

I can't stand teaching history at the k-12 level. It's watered down, sanitary, and often wrought by political agendas. It is, in many respect, an experience that can take away the love of teaching, as well as understanding and appreciation for the subject.

But, don't take my word for it. Here's a story a former History professor told me about his experience teaching history in k-12 schools.

"As I was being given the history books for my classes, the administrator told me 'Don't worry, there's nothing controversial in them.' That's when I knew I was going to get my doctorate and become a professor."

The story reflects how history gets watered down in school. It's not supposed to offend, at the same time, it lacks any realism, meaning, and engagement for students. History can be a very interesting subject and one that can be used to hone critical thinking and research skills. Instead, it boils down to a few events with some scant connection that may by covered by a standardized state exam. And, as the video below indicates, rote memorization tends to dominate, despite every history intention to get students to think about the events.


Debate on Teaching History in England (America, are you Listening?)

© 2014 Dean Traylor

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    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Excellent! Very good tale, and voted up! Welcome to short stories.

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