“The Pedagogue” by Maurice Thompson – selection #47 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card: ♣7♣ Seven of Clubs

The Suit: For this year’s Deal Me IN, Clubs is my suit for “Legendary” Indiana Authors

The Selection: “The Pedagogue” from Hoosier Mosaics, published in 1875, I own an electronic copy (Kindle Version)  Deal Me “IN” 2016 featured one other story from this collection, “The Legend of Potato Creek” covered in week 8, way back in February.

The Author: Maurice Thompson Maurice (pronounced like “Morris”) Thompson (1844-1901), born in Fairfield, Indiana, is one from the “Golden Age” of Indiana literature. He’s also a member of the archery(!) Hall of Fame. In his honor, I included in the “mosaic” above the scorecard for “bow poker” 🙂

legacy project seal of approval 2What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? I’m glad you asked! Before the start of each year, I come up with a list of 52 stories to read and assign each of them to a playing card in a standard deck. Each week, I draw a card, and that is the story I read. By the end of the year (52 weeks), I’m done, and ready to start a fresh deck. (For a more detailed explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of img_6202cards/storyroster click here.) Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection” of some kind. Deal Me “IN” is also now officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

The Pedagogue

“He was in love with learning. He considered the matter of imparting knowledge a mere question of effort, in which the physical element preponderated. If he couldn’t talk or read it into one he took a stick and mauled it into him. This mauling method, though somewhat distasteful to the subject, always had a charming result – red eyes, a few blubbers and a good lesson. The technical name of this method was “Warming the jacket.””

The word Pedagogue has always conjured up negative images for me. I am reminded of the sadistic schoolteacher in 1941’s great film, “How Green Was My Valley” or perhaps that one episode of the television series “Little House on the Prairie,” when the town votes to bring in a “disciplinarian” schoolmaster (Mr. Applewood) when they fear poor, sweet “Miss Beadle” can’t handle some of the rowdier boys. I fortunately don’t have too much personal experience with Padagogery, but what little I have experienced was indeed quite distasteful enough to lead me to be on guard against it in those instances where I’ve been called upon to instruct or train others.

(above: big – and small – screen pedagogues who learnt their lesson)

Thompson’s pedagogue, however, lives rather without too much stigma. It was a different age in which he lived, one where “pedagoguery” was an accepted practice in the education of our nation’s children. The above quotation notwithstanding, this story – thankfully – is not all about just an abusive schoolmaster. It’s about the collision of two men who both think they should be the unchallenged intellectual authority of the county. Blodgett, the pedagogue, registered his claim first. Though he was only the latest in a long string of pedagogues, he was already in town when an upstart printer shows up to start his own paper. Add to this perfect storm of 19th century conflict that, just before the editor appears, so does a young lady, Miss Holland, who, naturally, Blodgett makes a play for.( He is, after all, the most learned man in the countryside…) The editor has his own plans:

“One of two things must be done. Blodgett must be vanquished or his influence secured. He must be prevailed on to endorse the Star (the new paper), or the Star must attack and destroy him at once.”

Thompson goes on to explain that “…when nations wish to fight it is easy to find a pretext for war. So with individuals. So with the editor and Blodgett. They soon came to open hostilities and raised the black flag. What an uproar it did make in the county!”

They have an argument in the press (home field advantage for the editor!) over, of all things, the best translation of the Latin phrase “Nil de mortuis nisi bonum” (roughly ‘say nothing but good of the dead). Their exchange of editorials in the paper becomes comical and, eventually, one prevails by laying a clever trap for the other, who is judged by “a professor at Wabash College” (Hey, that’s my alma mater!) to be “certainly crazy or woefully illiterate; no doubt the latter.”

So ends the career of one of these men. You can read the story for yourself at several places on line, like this one.  I liked this story a lot, and at a few points it reminded me a little of Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and the collision course it contains as Ichabod and Brom Bones compete for the affections of Katrina. In that story, I remember that Ichabod is said to have “read several books quite through” which grants him intellectual standing in that literary town.

What about you? Are you familiar with Maurice Thompson? I wasn’t until about a year ago and am so glad I “discovered” him.  I’m planning to read a couple more of his stories for next year’s Deal Me In challenge as well.  Also – have you had any encounters of the pedagogic kind in your education journey? Or know of any great ones in literature or the arts? I’d love to hear of them.

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