Why Did Apples Become Associated With Teaching?

by Morgan Collins

For those of you who don’t know this week, May 2-6 is national teacher appreciation week. This means that everyone should thank all of their teachers for the work they have put in all school year long. For this week of gratitude many students often get their teachers gifts. However, when perusing the teacher section for gifts you’d be surprised to find how most items correlate with apples. This raises a peculiar question: how did the red juicy fruit become associated with teaching? 

Education has come a long way through the ages and fortunately for us we are all blessed enough to have the option of a free public school at our disposal. However, in the late 1800s not everyone was so fortunate. During this time period governments had not begun to pay teachers full wages yet. For the wealthy, middle, and upper class this was not an issue because they could either send their children to a private school or simply pay the teachers themselves. For poorer farming families, this was not an option though. Farming families in Denmark and Sweden started sending their children to school with barrels of fruits and vegetables as a payment for teaching their kids. Of the produce given to the teachers, apples were the most common because they can grow in practically any climate. Teachers would use these apples to bake with and make hard apple cider. Subsequently, the passage of the 18th amendment banning the sale of alcohol lessened the appeal of apples as a wage. As a way to continue to market apples, farmers came up with the phrase “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” to continue to make apples appealing as wages. Today, with teachers getting real money and compensation, the act of giving your teacher an apple has diminished, but the symbol behind it has not yet faded. 

So this week, be sure to thank your teacher for their strenuous work even if it is with the crisp fruit. Maybe you can even add some chocolate and caramel to the delicious snack. Nevertheless, teachers all over deserve to be thanked for their efforts and the job they do everyday.