Gunsmoke: Season 20, Episode 17

The Fires of Ignorance (27 Jan. 1975)

TV Episode  |  TV-PG  |   |  Western
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An inflexible father believes that his son is needed more on the farm than attending school. The local schoolteacher believes different and after being assaulted by the father will try to force the need for mandatory education in court.



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Airs Fri. May. 01, 2:19 PM on TVLAND

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Title: The Fires of Ignorance (27 Jan 1975)

The Fires of Ignorance (27 Jan 1975) on IMDb 8.5/10

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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Henry Decory
Oliver Harker
Tommy Harker
Diane Shalet ...
Ami Harker
Mr. Bruce (as George Di Cenzo)
Karen Obediear ...
Herb Vigran ...
Judge Brooker
John Pickard ...
Ted Jordan ...
Charles Wagenheim ...
Robert Brubaker ...


One of the series' most honored episodes centers on whether youngsters have the right -- and the duty -- to get a free public education. A teenage farm boy is holed up in the corncrib reading a borrowed copy of "The Iliad" when a fox gets into the henhouse, killing three chickens. The boy's father gives him a whipping to remember and considers taking him out of school. The middle-aged schoolteacher (Allen Garfield in a prototype of his "Teachers" movie role) figures out what happened and continues to encourage the student, giving him a copy of "The Odyssey" next. The father finds the book and burns it. Then he physically hauls the son out of school, bowling over the teacher in the process. The teacher goes to Matt and swears out a warrant for the father's arrest on assault charges. In the ensuing courtroom trial, Doc (in Milburn Stone's last major role on the series) is called on the testify about the value of a public education, while the teacher drills his own student on the ... Written by Peter Harris

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Release Date:

27 January 1975 (USA)  »

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Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


This episode was recognized with the National Education Award. See more »

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User Reviews

The fine acting and well written script makes for a nice episode.
8 April 2013 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

The story involves a stubborn father that believes his son is needed more on the farm than attending school. The father, Oliver Harker (John Vernon), forces his son, Tommy, to work the farm rather than read books. In fact, when Oliver finds Tommy reading a book from school- he throws the book in the fire and tells him that reading is over.

However, Tommy returns to the school only to have his father interrupt the classroom and drag his son out of school. On the way out Oliver knocks the schoolteacher, Henry Decory (Allen Garfield), to the ground in front of all the students. Mr Decory files a assault warrant on Mr. Harker and the matter of school attendance goes to court.

The citizens of Dodge are not too happy with a Eastern schoolteacher coming into town thinking he knows what is right for all children. They feel like he is taking away the father's ability to raise his son as he sees fit. With the court hearing taking place, the Judge will give flexibility as the schoolteacher tries to show the real reason for school attendance.

This is a very well written script. With the fine script and the great acting this show held the interest of the viewer the entire time. You do have to overlook the way the court hearing took place since the court allowed the trial to go well over the charge of assault, something that would not happen in a real courtroom. But for TV sake we over look this small detail and concentrate on the overall story. And the story was a good watch.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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