‘We don’t like mavericks here …’
– is what I was told some years back at my first school. My first school, just to be clear …
It’s not a default position, I promise you – I honestly don’t aspire to be a maverick. It’s simply about my always bearing in mind the attributed words of Einstein: the definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results. So if it demonstrably doesn’t work or doesn’t make sense, you need to find someone else, if you want blind obedience. How do we improve, otherwise? Plus, my teaching mentor gave me advice I’ve never forgotten, and which has served me well (and my students, if results are anything to judge by*). We might paraphrase it as: ‘As long as you know where should be taking the students, don’t stress about abandoning the lesson plan and getting there via another route.‘
So, admittedly, I can be a:
- 1. an unorthodox or independent-minded person.
But, surely, no SURELY, this what we aim to foster in our children (what actually we reward in the subject: critical, evaluative thinking and independence of ideas – those terms are on the markschemes, at the top end) … right? Or does education exist to train people into unthinking passivity?
The more Marlowe I read, and teach, the more I sense a kindred spirit. A potentially unpleasant attention-seeking side; a facet of his character that wants to challenge, wants to push buttons and expose the patent absurdities that surround him; and, perhaps, an arrogance. Yes, in both of us. * see above I think it led Marlowe to be rash, to upset important people, to vent his impatience with a world in which he perhaps felt he deserved better. He reminds me very much of Hotspur, to whom I am also drawn:
I will ease my heart,
Albeit I make a hazard of my head. 1HIV (I.iii) [a]
Marlowe, a scholarship boy, was never going to fit, depite being brilliant. I believe he was too much of a maverick to be circumspect – which Shakespeare seems to have been so adept at – when something frustrated him. This led him, I think, to adopt ever more outrageous tactics to be noticed and recognised, until …
When I think of Marlowe, I often think of this song:
Which leads me to this week’s quotation:
‘until the earthquake of the first world war of 1914-1918, society remained recognisable as continuous, at least in rural England, from Elizabethan days. It exemplified an organic structure, which recognised a principle: it was based on hierarchical order, kin which social class expressed social functions. People knew their place in it, where they stood and how they were expected to behave – always with a margin of exceptions, the inassimilable, the misfit, the criminal, in word, the exceptional (a Marlowe, for instance). Here is a principle upon which to thread the immense tapestry of social life’ [b] my emphasis
Not knowing your place is a double-edged sword – take it from me.
The only Marlowe text I teach at the moment is Edward II: students – I am going to suggest to you that Spenser’s advice to Baldock about how he should ‘cast off the scholar’, because it will only get him so far – just like Marlowe’s free education would … certainly people like Robert Greene (of ‘Upstart Crowe’ fame) would never let him forget it, or admit Marlowe to his rarified social circles …
[b] A.L.Rowse, The Elizabethan Renaissance: The Life of the Society, (Cardinal: London, 1974)