Minding Some "P's"
Still More "P's"
Lord of the Flies I
Lord of the Flies II
Caponiere to Yapp
Some "F" Words I
Some "F" Words II
What the "H" I
H Words VII
H Words VIII
H Words IX
H Words X
Sublime To.. II
Saturday Words I
Saturday Words II
Saturday Words III
2009 Kids Bee I
2009 Kids Bee II
2009 Kids Bee III
2009 Kids Bee IV
Bill Long 12/12/08
The previous essay contended that a new educational philosophy and method must follow from the reality of the Internet in our midst. The most desirable result will be that fields are reconceptualized, primarily because people will realize that fields can be entered into from a number of points, points that allow for a completely different view of the field. It is like you are entering onto a field, cordoned off by a single strand of rope four feet high. The "official" entrance is hundreds of yards down the road, but you can "sneak into" the field just by ducking under the rope. Why go through the main entrance if you don't have to? Indeed, you may have to pay a steep admission charge if you simply "follow the rules." After all, someone has to be paid for stringing the rope up...
I think educational institutions will be about the last ones to come up with these reforms, principally because they have so much invested in maintaining the status quo. It is like expecting the AMA to come up with recommendations supporting the virtue of alternative medicine, or a vaccinologist to criticie the MMR vaccine schedule. There is just too much at stake for universities/colleges/grad schools for them to reconceptualize what they are doing. After all, nothing is really "broken," is it? American higher education is often looked at as the acme of that mode of learning. Second, professors get real tired. It isn't that their jobs are that difficult, it is that they become, whether they realize it or not, academic bureaucrats within a few years after entering into teaching. The love of learning, in most cases, diminishes; the time spent keeping oneself intellectually sharp and inquiring gradually lessens; the spirit or eagerness for "reform" falls on deaf ears.
So, any kind of reform of the nature of learning and the educational process will probably come from outside of academia--like these essays, for example. But, since I have other things to do in life, I will just dump the goods and then keep learning. You get real frustrated if you just wait around until people "catch your drift." Or, alternatively, I will focus on an area where I think I can have an impact, such as building a movement that might lead to the eventual repeal of the Oregon death penalty.
Moving to Hatchment
But all of these observations arose because of my running into one simple word in English which I hadn't encountered previously--hatchment--and I decided to explore it briefly. The noun (and verb) hatch is a very versatile one in English, but hatchment, as the OED tells us, is a "shortened and altered form of achievement through the French forms atcheament, atchement, atch'ment." The English hatchment, possibly derived from the Netherlands in the late 16th century, was a lozenge- or diamond-shaped escutcheon or tablet exhibiting the armorial bearings of a deceased person, which was affixed to the front of his dwelling place. Thus, as this article says, the practice developed from the custom of carrying the deceased person's coat of arms and crest before his coffin and then transferring it back to his residence, where it would hang for a year or so--before it would be given to the local church. But even this brief description brings with it all kinds of questions about origin, who "thunk it up," who made the escutcheon (did it have to be officially authorized or was it specially made for the funeral occasion?), what happened to the collections of these hatchments at the parish churches, etc.
In any case, by the study of hatchments, pictures here, we are brought into the late medieval world of heraldry. The terminology of heraldry is a language to itself. I would venture to say that 0%, if not less, of college students learn about heraldry today. Well, you may respond, knowledge of heraldry is about as useful today as discussions of falconry or about building ships in 18th century Salem, MA. Well, before I grant you that point, let's learn a little more about hatchments.
The Century gives us a picture of a hatchment that has two unique features--it has the coat of arms of both the husband and wife, and half of the escutcheon has black background and half has white. Let's take one at a time. If the lozenge or diamond is divided in two, with coats of arms of each spouse on each half, it is said to be impaled. Now, most people think of impalement as having to do with stakes driven through beasts' hearts, but in heraldry impalement is "the marshaling side by side of two escutcheons combined in one." The common use is of husband and wife, but it can be that a "bishop also impales his own arms with those of the see [diocese]" where he serves. Thus the verb "impale" (taken from in, meaning "in" or "by" and palus, meaning "stake") means "to display side by side on one shield." I wonder if, when I go to a New Year's Eve party to which I have been invited, I should say to the gathering at midnight, "Ok, everyone impale your arms with those of your neighbor," I would be quickly arrested....
Well, we can go further. So we have husband and wife's coats of arms impaled on the escutcheon. If the husband dies first, however, his "half" of the escutcheon has a black background, while hers is white, as here. If she dies first, the opposite is the case, as here. Things can get even more complex. Let's say she dies before he does, and then he remarries and dies before his second wife. It is starting to sound like the concept of the "fee tail" in English law, isn't it? Well, here is a hatchment of a man who survives his first wife but dies before his second. We know this because the "wife's half" is itself divided in two, and one part has a black background and one a white (two wives) and the husband's part is now dark (meaning he has died).
So, I did a little research. What if you wanted to study hatchments? A 10 volume set of hatchments, which survived an attempt to get rid of them in the early 20th century (who says that only book burning is dangerous to culture?), was published in England in the last 20 years of the 20th century. Yet, there is only one copy of this series in the entire NW of the United States. It is not as if I want to spend my life studying them now, but it shows that if you simply pull a little thread in the skein of knowledge, that you quickly come to a point of understanding and, often, of obstacles to learning.
Thankfully, though, you don't have to find the volumes on hatchments in order to make some progress on heraldry. But wouldn't you just love to be able to "translate" the following, taken from the hatchment of the Queen Mother, who died in 2002, at the age of 101?
"Scottish Shield only on funerary hatchment. The coat is per pale, to dexter the arms of the United Kingdom as used in Scotland (for her husband, King George VI); to sinister, quarterly, I and IV argent, a lion rampant azure langued and armed gules within a double tressure fleury-counter-fleury of the second (for Lyon), II and III, ermine three bows strings palewise proper (for Bowes), her paternal arms.
The entire background is black, as is appropriate for a widow (had she predeceased her husband, the hatchment would have been black on the sinister side only). The addition of the years of birth and death, and of the initial of the deceased, is unconventional on a hatchment."
The second paragraph should be utterly clear now; now we also know that sinister is the "left side," which is considered from the point of view of the hatchment and not of the viewer. Don't you just yearn, now, to be able to "translate" the first paragraph?
I am still not finished yet...