Mulcaster wrote two books on pedagogy: Positions, in 1581, and Elementarie in 1582. They’re not engrossing reading, unfortunately, but they are full of gems. His style is euphuistic and discursive, and he covers a lot of ground: opining on who should be education, how, what curriculum, what languages, how old, private vs. public, etc. Many of his opinions were forward thinking, and all of them are solidly based in practice, as he was an educator, in the classroom, for over 50 years.
In 1903 James Oliphant published a redaction of much of his work, which is much easier to read; but he focused on the parts that were interesting to him, and, oddly, left out a lot of the references specific to the arts.
Much more fascinating to me is Richard Mulcaster, by Richard L. DeMolen, published in 1991. He doesn’t try to re-write the books, but he puts Mulcaster in the context of his age and the humanist movement in education, and he explores the main ideas of both books.
I’m going to set out to redact only the chapters and passages that I find that directly address role of the arts in education.
In the first few pages of Chapter 1 of Elementarie:
My redaction: The other area that I started to explore in that book [Positions] but didn’t finish is to lay out what subjects should be followed in the course of learning, and what I myself propose to do for the advancement thereof. These are five in number and infinite in use: reading, writing, drawing, singing and playing [music].
So right from the start, the arts get three of the five. He proceeds to explain the importance of drawing and music, and I’ll cover those in time. But theatre and dance are left off the list, so I want to briefly clear that up. Mulcaster spends many chapters on voice and gesture, and we know from numerous memoirs that his students were extensively involved in performance. I’ll publish more of this in a post on Theatre
As for dance: Mulcaster is HUGE on exercise, noting that stillness in children produces bile and bad behavior, and thanks to Oliphant he is often noted for his endorsement of soccer [foote ball] in education, but he certainly didn’t stop there. My next post will be on dance.