drawing of the headless horseman holding a pumpkin and riding a horse through the woods

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

by Washington Irving

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In "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," how did Ichabod Crane treat his students?

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Ichabod's behavior with his students is best described in this paragraph:
he administered justice with discrimination rather than severity; taking the burden off the backs of the weak, and laying it on those of the strong. Your mere puny stripling, that winced at the least flourish of the rod, was passed by with indulgence; but the claims of justice were satisfied by inflicting a double portion on some little tough wrong-headed, broad-skirted Dutch urchin, who sulked and swelled and grew dogged and sullen beneath the birch. All this he called "doing his duty by their parents;" and he never inflicted a chastisement without following it by the assurance, so consolatory to the smarting urchin, that "he would remember it and thank him for it the longest day he had to live."

What we get from this description by "The Late Diedrich Knickerbocker"'s papers is basically that Ichabod was a stern believer in the old Dutch school in which the likes of Van Eyck and many others can also appreciate the old normative and extremely strict systems of instruction. Ichabod was no player with the boys, but he was more than willing to "play" with the girls.

However, like the first poster said, he also wanted to fill in the spot a parent might miss, and he also shared with his male students in after school activities. Yet, he always kept that "old time" distance that is meant to exist between a philosopher and his apprentice, and he meant business when it comes to that. Yet, as you can also infer from the description, Ichabod did try not to punish the weak and confused more than he did the strong and hard-headed. So, among his many flaws and contradictory actions with his students, he was consistent in his direct assessment of what needed to be done to make his students serious about what they had to be.

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According to the story, Ichabod Crane was a stern teacher, but a fair one, at least by the standards of those days.

Remember that in those days, it was assumed that teachers would hit their students a lot.  They would hit them when the misbehaved, but also, pretty often, when they made mistakes.

We are told that Ichabod really believed in the idea of "spare the rod and spoil the child."  We are told that his students were definitely not spoiled, which means he used the rod on them a lot.

Outside of school, he was also kinds to his students, being friendly with the older ones and helping the younger ones home (although he was doing this, in part, to get fed, or to meet their sisters...)

But it also says that he was somewhat kind.  He wouldn't beat on the kids who couldn't take it -- just on the stronger kids who weren't so afraid of being hit.

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