Fables Bookshop to host author Mark Henning

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Tuesday, 28th April 2015

This coming Thursday Fables Bookshop (119 High Street, Grahamstown) is hosting Author Mark Henning who will be signing copies of his book 'THE CROSS, THE SWORD, AND MAMMON'. With many years of close involvement with South Africa's schools, Mark is no mere onlooker to the scene.

The new book is a companion piece to his previous one, 'ZEST, A CELEBRATION OF GOOD SCHOOLS AND GOOD TEACHERS' that focused on how teachers inspired colleagues and pupils. This one is a history of schools for English speaking South Africans, going back to the founding of the earliest schools by the missionaries.

“Sometimes I am overwhelmed by memories ... by the gratifying conviction that there is a place in the world, in history and among people where I truly belong.” It was this sentence from Nancy Murray’s book, Kleinemonde Reflections, which inspired Mark Henning to write his fourth book – this one a personalised history of schools for English-speaking South Africans going back to missionaries in the early 1800s. The sense of community that the best schools established is perhaps the most important reason for the schools becoming, in the words of Professor Jonathan Jansen, “a remarkably rich part of the education vineyard” that needs “closer appreciation for their great contribution to South African culture, economy and democracy.” The title of Henning’s new book, The Cross, the Sword and Mammon, reflects how schools were founded first by the churches, then based on military needs and now on the generation of money, with education becoming viewed more and more as a commodity, with little intrinsic value.

Elements to explain the hardiness of these schools over centuries include the sense of belonging that is at their core, the fine quality of the Heads and teachers at the time of their founding, the minimal intervention by politicians and bureaucrats in their work, and the value families placed on learning. Their patterns were set by Oxbridge graduates, who spread the ideals of muscular Christianity, imperialism and colonialism round the world, with a confidence born of triumphs at Waterloo and Trafalgar, unshaken by a setback following the American War of Independence. The Eastern Cape was the focus of the development of formal education in South Africa, and there are chapters on St Andrew’s, Kingswood, and the work of the missionaries. The establishment of schools for girls enjoys a chapter on its own, with remarkable women using tact, subtlety and courage to overcome chauvinism. There is good in the best of us and bad in the worst of us.

As famous old schools (and universities) change to meet new circumstances, it is important to protect the good and to correct the bad. Henning has prognoses for their future.

We hope to see you on Thursday. Collect your signed copy and talk with the author.

For more information contact Ian Balchin 046 636 1525  

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