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Crossing the Rubicon

August 10 2011 at 9:56 AM

Dean Clarke 

 
About four years ago now, I was told a story about an historic girls grammar school here in Melbourne Australia called 'Rubicon Grammar' - a school that no longer exists but the stories I was told related to the school's Headmistress having a policy of using the cane on girls and more specifically applying the cane to the girl's bare bottoms. It was a lead I couldn't afford to ignore but most such stories obviously turn out to be rather less true than some people would like to believe, and after a bit of checking revealed absolutely no trace of a Rubicon Grammar, I dismissed the story as fantasy.

Earlier this year I was researching another school looking through old newspapers and came across this article on the same page as the one I was reading.

rosbercon.png

Something went 'click' and so I started looking into Rosbercon Grammar.

Also known as Rosbercon College.

It is a defunct school - it was absorbed into a larger school in the 1940s - but it did last quite a long time, and from what I've been able to find out, it was something of an unusual school largely thanks to one of its headmistresses - Miss Constance Tisdall O.B.E. She ran the school from 1906 to 1933, refusing an offer in 1911 to put her school under the authority of the Anglican Archdiocese which would have ensured its long term future, but would have required her to abandon her own ideas in running the school. One of these ideas seems to have been what was for the time, some very radical ideas about girls education. She believed girls needed to be just as educated as boys (she was one of the first women in Australia to receive a Masters Degree) at least in the humanities - she saw less need for Mathematics and Science, possibly because she, herself wasn't very good at them and she believed very much in firm discipline.

Some of the stories I have gathered about her and her school, I find rather incredible. My sources are first hand accounts from people who were themselves involved - one is a now very elderly woman who was a junior mistress at the school, another is an elderly man who - well, let's just say he was about the luckiest 14 year old boy I've ever heard of, given what he describes. I would love to be able to confirm what I am being told from some other source. Miss Tisdall's autobiography isn't helpful - but it was written nearly thirty years after she'd left the school and when she was holding a position in Victoria's society that might have made her reluctant to attract controversy (she had become one of Australia's most respected teachers - hence the O.B.E.). The reason I am posting here, is because I really can't see how I can use what I've got in my book without some sort of confirmation, and this is one place I'm going to ask if anyone has encountered references to matters of interest at this school.

 
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KK

Re: Crossing the Rubicon

August 10 2011, 8:15 PM 


 
 

KK

Dean - your book

August 12 2011, 12:25 AM 

Dean,

You have mentioned your book on a number of occasions. If I recall correctly, it is to be a "popular" history of education (with an emphasis on corporal punishment?).

Do you have a target date for publication? A publisher? Will it concentrate on "British" tradition?

Please may we have a summary of what is planned or the state of play?

 
 

Dean Clarke

Re: Crossing the Rubicon

August 13 2011, 11:11 AM 

Hi KK,

First of all thanks for the links - I have seen both of them (in fact, Trove is where I was when I found the little article I've pasted in that finally gave me the name for the school) but I appreciate any possible leads.

You have mentioned your book on a number of occasions. If I recall correctly, it is to be a "popular" history of education (with an emphasis on corporal punishment?).

More like a popular history of corporal punishment with a particular focus on the educational and other juvenile environments - mostly schools, but I am also looking at other institutions and groups - I'm less concerned with its use in families, but I don't avoid that when it comes up.

Do you have a target date for publication? A publisher? Will it concentrate on "British" tradition?

A publication date is difficult to judge. I have something ready for publication now, and have been at that stage since sometime last year. But I keep encountering new ideas and new information that I really want to add - for example, this material I've gathered on Rosbercon will, if I use it (and I hope to - it's pretty explosive stuff, which is why I really hope to substantiate it more) could be a 'chapter' in itself (as an exemplar - I'm not actually using chapters formally, but it's a convenient way to write and think about what I'm doing) and would require substantial revisions to the general chapter on girls schools in Australia in addition to that. Coming onto to NW54 this evening, I've found a reference to a school in Canada, I am now going to want to research, and again, there's a potential there for having to rewrite part of what I've already written - as you will know, because you are one of them, there are a number of people posting 'discoveries' here at times and I don't ignore that - but because I am not just going to steal other people's work, when I get a lead like that, I have to run it down myself. I've no qualms about using leads I find here, because I've shared a great deal of my own research here over the years, as well as forwarding some of it to people like Colin Farrell when appropriate (Haworth Bartram's remarkable photograph for example) but I do feel obligated to research it myself, not just lift it bodily from the page.

At some point, I've got to bite the bullet and push ahead to the publishing stage but at this stage it won't be this year. I've recently encountered some very interesting material, for example, on the use of corporal punishment in the Scout and Guide movement - not surprisingly, it's seriously tainted by imaginative additions, but there's enough there that seems to be capable of substantiation to make up a couple of chapters (when I add in what I have on other groups like the Boys Brigade, as well).

I do have a publisher who is interested but whether they will still be interested at the time I'm ready, I'm not sure. I'm also becoming less resistant to the idea of self publishing than I was a few years ago - that model is changing all the time, and becoming a lot more attractive.

The focus is largely on the 'Anglophone' tradition rather than specifically British - nations where English is a common language, if not the main language. The US, the UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Singapore, etc. Britain is, to a great extent, used as the pivot point that ties them all together.

 
 
 
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