1609 Burial of Edmund Coote

On this day in 1609, Edmund Coote was buried next to his wife. Who was Edmund Coote you ask? Well, let me tell you…


In 1596 Coote wrote The English Schoole-Maister: Teaching all his schollers, the order of distinct reading, and true writing our English tongue. This text would go on to become the most popular pedagogical manual of the early modern period. Along with Roger Ascham The Scholemaster, it went through twenty six separate editions between 1596 and 1656 and was still used as late as the mid-1700s, with the (ASTOUNDING) 54th edition produced in 1737.

I like to think of Coote as a bit of a controversial teacher, if only because of the mysterious circumstances surrounding his resignation from the King Edward VI Free School in Bury St Edmunds. He started working there as the school master in June 1596, produced and published his book, and then resigned for some reason the next May. Exactly why, scholars still don’t know.

He begins the book with something of a manifesto. Personally, I’m particularly fond of the part where he says that the schoolmaster shall “ease the poorer sort” and help them in “buying many Bookes”:

I Professe to teach thee that art vtterly ignorant, to Reade perfectly, to Write truely, and with judgement to vnderstand the reason of our English-tongue with great expedition, ease and pleasure.

I will teach thee that art vnperfect in eyther of them, to perfect thy skill in few dayes with great ease.

I vndertake to teach all my Schollers, that shall be trained vp for any Grammar Schoole, that they shall neuer erre in writing the true Orthography of any word truely pronounced: which, what ease and benefit it will bring vnto Schoole-masters, they best know: and the same profit doe I offer to all other, both Men, and Women; that now for want hereof, are ashamed to write to their best friends: for which I haue heard many Gentlemen offer much.

I assure all Schoole-masters of the English-tongue, that they shall not onely teach their Schollers with great perfection, but also they shall with more ease and profit, and in shorter time teach a hundred Schollers sooner, than before they could teach forty.

I hope, by this plaine and short kind of teaching, to incourage many to read, that neuer otherwise would haue learned. And so more knowledge will hee brought into this Land, and moe Bookes bought than otherwise would haue beene.

I shall ease the poorer sort, of much charge that they haue beene at, in maintaining their children long at Schoole, and in buying many Bookes.

Strangers that now blame our Tongue of difficulty, and vncertainty, shall by mee plainly see and vnderstand those things which they haue thought hard.

I doe teach thee the first part of Arithmeticke, to know or write any number.

By the practice therunto adjoyned, all learners shall so frame and tune their voyces, as that they shall truely and naturally pronounce any kind of stile, eyther in prose or verse.

By the same practice, Children shall learne in a Catechisme the knowledge of the principles of true Religion, with precepts of vertue, and ciuill behauiour.

I haue made a part of a briefe Chronologie for practice of reading hard Words, wherein also thou shalt bee much helped for the vnderstanding of the Bible, and other Histories: and a Grammer Scholler learne to know when his Authors both Greeke and Latine, liued, and when the principall Histories in them were done.

I haue set downe a Table, contayning and teaching the true writing and vnderstanding of any hard English word, borrowed from the Greeke, Latine, or French, and how to know the one from the other with the interpretation thereof, by a plaine English word: whereby Children shall bee prepared for the vnderstanding of thou∣sands of Latine words before they enter the Grammer Schoole, which also will bring much delight and judgement to others. Therefore if thou vnderstandest not any word in this Booke, not before ex∣pounded, seeke the Table.

If I may bee generally receiued, I shall cause one vniforme manner of Teaching: a thing which as it hath brought much profit vnto the Latine tongue, so would it doe to all other Languages, if the like were practised.

Finally, I haue giuen thee such Examples for faire Writing, whereby in euery Schoole all bad hands may be abandoned, that of thou shouldest buy the like of any other (which thou shalt seldome finde in England,) they alone will cost thee much more money than. I aske thee for my whole Profession.

If thou desirest to bee further satisfied, for the performance of these things; reade the Preface, where thou shalt also see the reason of some things in the first Booke, which thou mightest otherwise dislike.


1642 Charles I Enters Parliament for the Five Members

1642 Charles I Enters Parliament for the Five Members

When Charles I came to the throne in 1625, he inherited his father’s fractious relationship with Parliament. James and Charles both saw the English throne as their divine right. Literally. They had a right to rule over the kingdom and no one had a right to question their decrees. The English Parliament, ever the contrarians, thought it would be only fitting to have a voice in such things as their own taxation. After all, according to ancient custom only Parliament had the right to approve new taxes on the people. Charles, as James had done, tried to rule without Parliament for years on end, but when a rebellion broke out in Scotland in 1639, Charles was forced to call a new Parliament to levy taxes to support the military expedition to punish the Scots.


Calling the parliament, that… didn’t go so well. Parliament refused to do anything until the King listened to their demands for reform. Charles said, “Go away” and that was that. That first parliament of 1640 sat for only three weeks and is known in history as the Short Parliament.

Later in the year, Charles gave in and called a new parliament (this one called the Long Parliament) and promised that yes, well, maybe he’d think about listening to what the Commons had to say, but they bloody well had better vote for new taxes because the Scots were still revolting!

Prayerbook Rebellion

Over the course of 1641, Charles and Parliament were at increasing loggerheads, with neither side wholly winning, but increasing acrimony on both sides of the equation. Charles close advisor and friend, the Earl of Stafford was executed by the prompting of Parliament, while Charles secured a peace and eventual military alliance with the Scots.

Finally, in January 1642, Charles had had enough of dealing with Parliament and decided to show them his power in full. He chose five MPs who were particularly troublesome to his political goals and decided to arrest them for treason. Being something of a histrionic man, Charles chose to enter Parliament himself, at the head of an armed guard, to arrest the MPs himself. Before he could arrive, the word came that he was coming with soldiers and the five MPs were shuffled off into hiding. Charles entered the House of Commons, surrounded by armed men and ascended to the throne of the Speaker of the House. He asked the Speaker to point out the men whom he had come to arrest. Charles had never laid eyes on his political opponents before. They were names to him, not faces.

The reply of the Speaker of the House, William Lenthall, has ever since then been cited as a pivotal moment in the history of parliamentary democracy in the English speaking world.

May it please your majesty, I have neither eyes to see nor tongue to speak in this place but as this house is pleased to direct me whose servant I am here; and humbly beg your majesty’s pardon that I cannot give any other answer than this is to what your majesty is pleased to demand of me.

Charles was forced to leave the House of Commons, humiliated and cowed. The first shots of the English Civil War followed soon after.


I Don’t Want to Be Your Friend (Unless I Do): Emotional Labour in University Teaching

Some friends of mine do a podcast called Witch Please, about the world of Harry Potter. They are scholars out of the University of Alberta and much of what they end up talking about it related to teaching and pedagogy at Hogwarts. I often completely agree with them (for instance, that Hufflepuff is the only house that really values education); I often completely disagree with them (honestly, I may be a monster, but Cedric Diggory’s death was just SO contrived). Nevertheless, they have recently been talking about emotional labour in their podcasts and somehow it has got into the back of my head.

Seriously, go check it out.  I’ll wait.

Emotional labour is one of those feminist issues that I’ve never really dug into before. No real reason I guess, just never really thought too much about it. Over the past few weeks, however, I’ve been thinking a lot about assessment, universal course design, students with disabilities, and my increasing sense of frustration and exhaustion and I’m wondering if the concept of emotional labour might help me to articulate what it is I’m feeling regarding teaching.

“That is, when a professor’s ability to assess a student’s capacity to participate in the discourse or discipline is removed or hindered by the administration in a misguided (mis-)application of universal instruction design — in other words, passing a student because the student will be emotionally traumatized by failure — the course ceases to be about participating in a discourse or discipline and becomes instead infantilizing, othering, and disenfranchising.”

In some of the studies I’ve been reading regarding education and working with students with learning disabilities, I’m not surprised to see that students who feel that their instructor is empathetic and approachable end up doing better. For instance, 

  • Ouellett (“Faculty Development and Universal Instruction Design” in Equity and Excellence in Education 2004) notes that there are many advantages to profs knowing their students, not least of which is tailoring appropriate supports to students who may need extra help.
  • Rose and Meyer (Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age 2002) argue that “affective networks” are necessary for engaging and motivating students, especially students with disabilities. Getting to know your students allows you to communicate your passion for the material and thereby motivate them to do well.
  • Another study (Elacqua et al Perceptions of Classroom Accommodations Among College Students with Disabilities 1996) came to the somewhat unsurprising conclusion that, for students with disabilities, the experience of asking for accommodations can be stressful. Such stress is reduced when students feel that the professor is empathetic and supportive.

I know, none of this is terribly surprising to me, either. Teaching is a very personal thing, predicated on individual relationships that sometimes last an entire lifetime. 

There’s a big distinction in my mind (at least at the moment) regarding setting up a classroom in which everyone is respected and reasonable accommodations are met for a wide range of disabilities and setting up a classroom in which the professor is asked tacitly or explicitly to take on the emotional labour of the students. I worry that the latter is the conclusion that some university and school board administrations are coming to from studies like the ones I just quoted (and others). That is, when a professor’s ability to assess a student’s capacity to participate in the discourse or discipline is removed or hindered by the administration in a misguided (mis-)application of universal instruction design — in other words, passing a student because the student will be emotionally traumatized by failure — the course ceases to be about participating in a discourse or discipline and becomes instead infantilizing, othering, and disenfranchising.

Students with strong social networks and well-developed relationships with professors will tend to do better in classes, this is true. It’s one of the reasons why I give my students access to my Facebook, my Twitter, my YouTube, and whatever other social media I belong to. I want students to use me as a resource. If you want to learn about Shakespeare or poetry or theatre or what have you… I’m here to help!

That said, I can’t be anyone’s friend while they are my student.  Obviously. 

Montaigne probably put it best. One cannot be friends with someone who has power over you because you will always be beholden unto that person. Students want something from professors – to pass the course. It is perverse to demand both a hierarchical organization of power and a distributed organization at the same time about the same topic. It’s not that professors are like princes were to Montaigne – better than their subjects. It’s that when it comes to the particular topic at hand (for me, Shakespeare), the professor is the expert in the discipline who is judging the student’s capacity to participate in that discourse. Yes, I’m always judging you. That’s my job.

Further, I maintain the right to choose my friends based on my own personal inclinations and desires. I don`t think anyone will judge me too harshly for keeping that right to myself.  Friends do emotional labour for other friends. We cry on each other`s shoulders and we get drunk with each other when one of us goes through a break up. It`s a labour that is unpaid, that is shitty, that is hard, and it is incredibly difficult. You can`t pay people enough for genuine emotional labour. It has to come from a choice.

In the attempt to set up a classroom that is empathetic and supportive, I worry that it is too easy for those terms to slip over into emotional labour. It isn’t always the case, but it can certainly happen that administrators and even professors themselves can start to see themselves more as the student’s advocate and friend than as the person who is assessing them. A professor can be a part of a student`s “affective network” – but only so much. At some point we have to step back. We have to assess them, after all. We have to say, “Yes, you have mastered this discourse,” or “No, you have not the skill yet.” 

This is further complicated by the fact that, for many students, failure to master the material in a course or to satisfactorily participate in a discourse represents a statement about their personal self-worth as a human being. Obviously this too is not true. I mean, I’m only telling a student that they did poorly in Shakespeare – I have no idea if they are a decent human being or not!

“Friends do emotional labour for other friends. We cry on each other`s shoulders and we get drunk with each other when one of us goes through a break up. It`s a labour that is unpaid, that is shitty, that is hard, and it is incredibly difficult. You can`t pay people enough for genuine emotional labour. It has to come from a choice.”

Nevertheless, I worry that the 20+ years of educational theory’s focus on changing the role of the professor away from the “sage on the stage” and towards being a part of an “affective network” can be (mis-)understood as being the role of the professor to be the friend of the student as the student sees their academic worth as being inexorably tied to their self-worth as a person. Friends worry about friends’ self-worth as persons. As a professor, I’m only paid to worry about a student’s capacity to participate in a discourse. To ask more of me is to ask me to engage in emotional labour for free.

It’s something of a two-pronged problem. On the one hand, students are brought up with an expectation of their own academic sufficiency such that failure to navigate the terms of a discipline is met with overwhelming emotional distress — just look at the droves of students who are being treated for anxiety disorders.  On the other hand professors are being encouraged to take on a culturally feminized position of caregiver and friend, while not being compensated for the emotional labour that position entails.

Please note, I’m not of the Snape school of pedagogy. I’m not saying that the other role that is available to teachers is to start humiliating our students and belittling them, like Snape does to Harry Potter. Rather, what I think I am saying is that we have to, of course, 

  1. create syllabi that are universal in design; 
  2. help our students to recognize that failure is always an option and that doesn’t mean the end of the world, and; 
  3. protect ourselves from being forced into emotional labour that we don’t want to do, in the name of a job that doesn’t repay us for such labour.

In the end, I’ve made friends with many of my former students. Some are quite close friends now (though I haven’t cried on any of their shoulders, that may say more about my propensity to cry in general). That said, I like to think we chose our friendship, rather than having such a relationship forced upon us by the mandarins of educational theory.

I don’t know – maybe I’m just sour at the moment. I’m certainly open to having my mind changed. What do you think? Am I just being a privileged, white, male prick/Snape-wannabe? Or am I missing something altogether from my reading of the problem? Please let me know in the comments.

Patriarchy and Wages

A friend of mine sent me a rather hateful article from CBS News that was in essence an apologist for the patriarchy trying to obfuscate the reality of the situation.  My friend was just asking for my opinion on it (didn’t support the ideas – just wanted my thoughts).  So… here are my thoughts.  I’ve put this together in about 5 minutes, so forgive any glibness or lack of depth.
There are a number of points to address here, so I’ll just run through them one by one.
Men are far more likely to choose careers that are more dangerous,
Chicken and egg problem – those careers are gendered masculine so women don’t choose them & because women don’t choose them, they are gendered masculine.  When women choose a career, the gender of that career changes, which historically leads to lower wages.  In Russia, for instance, following the Revolution, women entered the medical profession in droves, leading to medicine becoming feminized as a career path.  To this day in Russia, doctors make less than comparably educated professionals, due to the process known as “feminization” of the career.  It happened in North America with teaching in the late 1800s.  Each career has a culture and that culture can force certain groups out, women, racial minorities, whomever. The fact that the careers are more dangerous really has little to do with the matter.
Men are far more likely to work in higher-paying fields and occupations (by choice).
See above.
Men are far more likely to take work in uncomfortable, isolated, and undesirable locations
Yeah, and if you were the target in a culture that repeatedly says that if you go out late at night then you will be raped, would you want to work in those jobs?  If you were a boss, would you hire someone to take these jobs, when you too have been told that women are by nature victims?  Wouldn’t you think that would be an instant lawsuit?  Hence women who may want these jobs self select out on the one hand and are selected out on the other by potential employers, all because of the patriarchal construction of femininity-qua-victimhood.
Men work longer hours than women do.
Simply not true.  Studies have repeatedly shown that women tend to work longer hours than men.  This work is compounded when domestic unpaid labour is factored in.  In fact, that is one thing that this list really doesn’t seem to take into account – unpaid domestic labour is still labour and thus still counts as work.
Further, this, like many of the points on this rather hateful list, actually reinforces patriarchal norms as natural.  The playing field is not even between women and men and the list is trying to say it is.
Men are more likely to take jobs that require work on weekends and evenings
Again, this has more to do with traditional gender categories.  Our culture baulks at the idea of a mother leaving her children to work on the weekends, but has no problem with fathers working long hours to “bring home the bacon.”  With years of programming telling you (and your boss) that it is ok to work late hours, are you likely to say no to OT?  No, you become a hero provider.  On the other hand, what does the culture say about a woman who does the same at the expense of her family?  She’s a bad mother.
Even within the same career category, men are more likely to pursue high-stress and higher-paid areas of specialization.
The stress comes from the masculinization of the discipline and the pay, likewise.  See above.
This one is interesting if only because the study points out that this is a very small sample group and that you CANNOT extrapolate this across all women.  It really only applies to young women in certain areas of the US and even there, there are localized reasons as to why it is the case.  Mostly, education.  Women are more likely to pursue higher education than men, which is one of the reasons why education itself is becoming feminized.  Further, the fact that these women have never had a child is itself interesting since it has been shown time after blessed time that as soon as a woman has a child, her earning potential stagnates.
Anyhow, that’s my two cents.  I’ve not had time to put the studies together that refute this, but I’m sure that I could if you really want me to.