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Mâitre Crown said:
> One of the difficulties of having so few colleagues so far apart is
> that it's the devil's own chore to pull together an exam board.
> What are the possibilities of using videotape for this purpose?
If there are any two things I'd like to see, it is a sound solution to the problems associated with the training of new teachers, and to the problem of assembling examination boards.
With respect to examinations, I must say, I'm not at all sanguine about the use of videotapes for a variety of reasons. For one, with such an arrangement it would not possible for commissioners to interact with the candidate. If some feature of the lesson appeared irregular, there would be no way to ask the candidate how he justified his lesson plan. If there were a technical error of some sort, the candidate couldn't be asked to correct it. And, the random action element of an exam could not be given. The same would be true for the oral exam.
For another, what one sees on a video is only in two dimensions. Because fencing takes place in three, I fear much would not be perceptible.
Yet another is the problem of such an exam's administration. Naturally, candidates cannot be allowed to administer exams to themselves; at least one individual serving as the representative of an independent authority would have to shoulder that responsibility. Unless that person was local, he or she would have to travel to the site of the exam. That one person would require only two more to form an adequate commission (using Maestro William Gaugler's program as a guide).
As I see it, the problem of getting three or more qualified masters together to form a commission may be a difficult problem, but it's not nearly as challenging as determining who those people would be in the first place. I hate to see the division that has evolved between classical and "sport" fencing, but it's unfortunately become a cold, hard reality and the years of bitterness that have passed between these two camps have produced a permanent schism. As a consequence, those things necessary and once common to both groups now have to be re-invented for the classical school, starting with the formation of an accrediting agency analogous to the International Academy of Arms. That's a very tall order, and I must admit I can't imagine how we might go about it, but it's clear that such an agency would be an absolute necessity if classical fencing is to survive not only the hostilities of the "sport" fencing world, but as well, the flood of self-appointed "fencing masters" who imagine they are qualified to sit on examining boards.
Very good points, Frank.
The traditional exam -- which would be my first choice as a "best case scenario" -- would certainly be for all the examinees to assemble in some specified time and place where the board would convene. I think there's a great value in standing up do a good grilling, and in the comradery that comes from sharing the ordeal.
The board members' expenses must, of course, be covered somehow, either by the examinees or by other pooled funds from organizational dues, or etc.
Are there other possibilities that would be acceptable?
Could the examinee do the traveling? Suppose the examinee visited each of the board members in turn for a personal exam. The board members could then confer and reach a decision -- which I believe should be unanimous, if for approval.
Turning high-tech, what are the possibilities of a video-conference call, doing the exam by "remote" so to speak?
One thing for certain, in my mind. I never again want to have to ask, "Who the hell gave THIS bozo the exam?" So I believe the examiners' names must appear on the certification document and not just the "officers" of the organization.
Like you, I regret the schism that has been created between classical fencing and sport or "olympic fencing." It used to be "recreational" versus "sport" but both camps shared the same rules. It was just a matter of whether one was ready/willing/able to engage in regular competition for "the marbles" or just for fun. (Similarly, I know some great musicians who don't "perform out," but get them in the study and you've got pure gold. Some people enjoy performing and are good at it. They are not necessarily the best musicians. Some people are strictly "amateurs" -- but their playing skills are second to none.)
But I believe this new separation only came about when the sport body decided to "interpret" the long-standing rules of the phrase d'armes to mean exactly the reverse of what they had always been. This made it impossible for a classically-trained fencer, fencing correctly, to ever win a bout.
As a smart political move, the USFA then set up a "veterans" ghetto so that people who knew the "old" fencing, that is, the TRUE fencing, would be isolated to play among themselves and stop asking questions that might upset the kiddies.
Gradually, as these "veterans" die off, fencing will die out and the problem is solved.
It's a very slick tactic.
Whether the analysis in "veterans" events any longer differs from the rest, I can't say. I'll have to rely on reports from others on that.
Short of the "sport" politicians returning to a correct analysis of the phrase, I can't see anyway to reconcile the difference. And I thik there's about as much chance of that as there is of GW Bush suddenly telling the truth.
If I may state it again, when someone says 4+4=10, if you "compromise" and settle on 4+4=9, you're still wrong.
Adam Adrian Crown wrote:
Very good points, Frank.
The traditional exam -- which would be my first choice as a "best case scenario" --
In my opinion the traditional exam is the only way to assure the legitimacy of certification. One way to attenuate the expense of convening a board would be to hold exams just once per year. Over that time candidates would accumulate in numbers sufficient to cover among themselves a commission's expenses. In Dr. William Gaugler's program candidates always contributed to the cost of flying in a member and paying for his night in a nearby motel. Usually, the candidates were local residents. Consequently, they had no other economic burden. However, in the instance of a national classical fencing organization, this would not often be the case. And, it wasn't always so for Dr. Gaugler's candidates either. I think Maestro Hayes holds the record for the longest commute, all the way from Oregon, not just to his examinations, but to class as well.
For candidates who would balk at the expense I would suggest they contrast the investment they would make with the benefits, monetary and other, that their investment would return over the long run. Using myself as an example if I may, although I paid out relatively little for each exam (the cost of the commissioner's air fair wasn't very great), the cost of going through the entire program was fairly high. Counting the cost of bridge tolls, gasoline (11,700 miles) and semester units over three years, the cost came to well over $4000. While that might seem exorbitant, it amounts to only a fraction of the sum the investment returns in but a single year. (And, I don't teach full time.)
Truly, while the examination process poses difficulties, they pale in comparison to those of training teachers and establishing a national organization.
Frank Lurz wrote:
....Truly, while the examination process poses difficulties, they pale in comparison to those of training teachers and establishing a national organization...
Certainly my academic degrees cost far more than my fencing master diploma -- and don't seem to have put anything back in the kitty, either.
I believe it's customary for a teacher do do whatever he pleases within his own salle. It's when stepping outside of that that certification becomes an issue. Suppose we had a given number of fencing masters who agreed upon certification criteria. Would it be feasible to accept each other's certifications? Or is that too biased or open to abuse?
I would certainly love to see a professional organization for fencing masters in this country.
And I imagine agreeing on certification criteria would be a good first step, no matter what.
I think the other major thing to accomplish is to procure liability insurance for members' groups such as the USFA provides so that those who wish to do so could cease to maintain a USFA membership just to get the insurance.
From my point of view, the certification exam should be about teaching knowledge and skill. This would allow practicioners from both the French and the Italian schools to participate side by side.
I assume an Italian Master would not present a candidate who was technically deficient in his/her school, so I rather take that correctness as a given. I think I'd be more interested in lesson ability.
What do you see as the obstacles that must be overcome, both in forming a meaningful national organization and in developing a corps of excellent teachers?
Pardon my ignorance, but is'nt work in this regard already being undertaken by the International Masters at Arms Federation and the Association for Historical Fencing?
Last edited by cfaustus (2006-06-06 16:28:45)
When we talk of such big, powerful organizations, I think we have to be careful of the inherent risk of tyranny of the majority; it's that tyranny that homogenized all the variety of European fencing of the 1800's (backsword, cutlass, sword & dagger, etc., etc.) into the 3 weapons of the modern FIE.
But on the other hand, big governing bodies might certainly help deal with all the ferrailleurs out there, as Maestro Lurz points out...