Saturday, February 1, 2020

Education Never Ends

When I first started this blog in 2017, I toyed around with the idea of calling it "Some Poor Bibliophile" because my main interest in Sherlockiana is the books aspect.  For whatever reason, I went with Interesting Though Elementary, but my love of books continues as strong as ever.  

As I posted in one of my BSI Weekend posts, the Dealer's Room on Saturday was a sight to see.  Books, books, books, everywhere!  And it was here that I got what may be my favorite Sherlockian book of all time.  

"Education Never Ends: Educators, Education and the Sherlockian Canon" is only 210 pages long, but I deliberately took a few days to read this because I was enjoying it so much and wanted to savor every bit of it.  Obviously, as a Sherlockian and an educator, this book was right down the middle of my wheelhouse.  This is the third in the BSI Professions Series, the first two being on doctors and lawyers.  I never picked either of those up because I thought, "I'm not a lawyer or doctor so those books aren't for me."  But after reading "Education Never Ends," I realized that these books are made for everyone.  Yes, the doctors, lawyers, and educators will get an extra level of enjoyment from these titles, but they are very accessible to anyone out there.  In fact, "Canon Law" and "Nerve and Knowldege" are now at the top of my TBR list after reading this offering from the professions series.

But what's in this book that would appeal to the average Sherlockian?

The book is broken up into four sections, history of education in the Victorian era, what Sherlock Holmes's education might have looked like, examples of education in the Canon, and how Sherlock Holmes can be used in different classrooms (full disclosure: I have an essay in this section).

The first section, Education and the Victorian Era, is full of great history lessons of England during the canonical times.  Mattias Bostrom, who is never NOT informational, kicks it off with an overview of the education that Arthur Conan Doyle received, full of plenty of quotes from primary sources.  Kenneth Carr and Marino Alvarez follow that up with a one-two punch of essays on Holmes's Baker Street Irregulars and the types of schooling that would have been available to children in that social class during the time.  But the one that stuck out most to me was Richard Ryan's great piece on the board schools of England.  Being a modern day American, I had presumed that board schools were just the long-standing standard education of the day.  After reading Richard's essay, I will never take Holmes's predictions about the future of England at face value again.

The Holmes and Education section bounces around from topic to topic.  Since we know so little of Holmes's early life and these essays are all theoretical, that's to be expected.  Martin Fido gives an overall look at what the education of Sherlock Holmes's youth would have looked like as a child of a country squire.  Bob Katz, Henry Boote, and Curtis Armstrong all make cases for their own specific fields of medicine, music, and acting respectively in their essays arguing that Holmes received training in each of their own fields of study.  (In fact, I posted about Bob's chapter when I first heard it in 2017 as a great talk)  And three more essays round out this section showing how Holmes used certain skills picked up in his educational career in his detective work: Alex Warner on visualization, Katherine Ramsland on synthesis, and James O'Brien on the scientific method.

Bob Katz, 2017, arguing that Holmes received a medical education

As you can see, no specialized knowledge is needed for any of these early chapters.  The reader is carried along with historical information, theoretical musings, and canonical applications on every page.  The following section, Educational Reflections in the Canon, keeps that streak alive.  Even though this section only has two essays in it, they are the ones that I found myself tweeting about the most.  Timothy Greer gives a run down of teachers in the canonical tales.  And they do run the gamut of behaviors!  (IMO, Tim also has the two best lines in this whole book)  Now, you could make an argument that a history of the London libraries don't necessarily fit into a book about education.  You may be right, but it doesn't matter.  Catherine Cooke's chapter on the London library system of the 1800s and 1900s is worth the price of the book alone!

Only in the last section do things get a little technical.  Using Education to Promote the Study of the Sherlockian Canon: Essays for Educators is the section for the teaching nerds like me out there.  I would argue that these essays can be fun to see how some of us are getting a new generation interested in Sherlock Holmes, but wouldn't blame you if you skipped out on this one.

But wait!  Before you do, Francine Kitts has a great write up on the Beacon Society.  This one isn't just for teachers.  Anyone can enjoy the work that the Beacon Society is doing, and most of the Beacon Society members are not involved in education at all.  My one quibble with this book is that placing the Beacon Society chapter at the very end does it a disservice.  Even if you're not interested in the nuts and bolts of education, skip to Francine's article at the end.  It's a short one, and gives you great insight into what's going on in the world of Sherlockiana.

But if you are curious about how we educators are slipping Sherlock Holmes into our lesson plans (or you're a completest and refuse to not finish a book), the final section will take you through some very different and interesting ways it's being done.  Shannon Carlisle goes over how she has used the Canon in different elementary grades, I talk about how to get to kids in fifth grade before they become jaded middle schoolers, Tim Greer made me wish that I had a teacher like him in high school, and Ashley Polasek shows us that you can teach collegiate level classes in Sherlock Holmes, and somehow achieve that elusive dream: being a professional Sherlockian.

Marino Alvarez and Tim Greer have done a great job with this collection.  I was very excited to be asked to participate, but when I saw the list of other contributors, I was over the moon.  And let me tell you, the material that is in this small volume definitely deserves a spot on your shelf.

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