A Culture of Teaching: Early Modern Humanism in Theory and Practice

By Rebecca W. Bushnell | Go to book overview
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CHAPTEP 2 The Sovereign Master and the Scholar Prince

In the woodcuts and paintings that depict early modern schoolrooms one item is rarely missing, although it may lie in an obscure corner. Somewhere you will always find a slender stick or a bundle of birch switches, the symbol of the master's authority. In G. F. Cipper's 1715 painting "The Village Schoolteacher," the master drapes one affectionate arm over the student's shoulders, while holding in the other hand the instrument of discipline, intimidating when merely shown but unforgettable when used (Figure 1).1. Accounts of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century schooling echo the children's cries of pain: the recalcitrant son of Thomas Ingelend play The Disobedient Child (1570?) refuses to go where scholars' "tender bodies both night and day / Are whipped and scourged, and beat like a stone / That from top to toe the skin is away."2.

What was corporal punishment meant to accomplish? Some pedagogues warned of the consequences of sparing the rod, while others deplored the ill effects of beating, yet few could explain clearly why beating itself should produce a model citizen. For the most part, its

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1.
On corporal punishment, see also Philippe Ariès, L'enfant et la vie familiale sous l'Ancien Régime ( Paris: Plon, 1960), trans. by Robert Baldick as Centuries of Childhood: A Social History of Family Life ( New York: Random House, 1962), p. 258; and Walter J. Ong , "Latin Language Study as a Renaissance Puberty Rite," Studies in Philology 56 ( 1959): 111-12.
2.
Thomas Ingelend, The Disobedient Child ( London, 1570?), in The Dramatic Writings of Richard Wever and Thomas Ingelend, ed. John S. Farmer (1905; reprint, New York: Barnes and Noble, 1966), p. 48.

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