Recognizing Skill and Good Works

dennis grace amazing at
Tue Oct 22 10:21:27 PDT 1996

Greetings Cousins,

Lyonel here.  Baron Aodhan 

>I'm not at all sure what your are implying by this phrase.  Are you perhaps
>mixing "strawman" with "dog in a manger"?

My apologies for any confusion this might have generated.  "Straw dog" and
"strawman" are equivalent terms.  I prefer straw dog because, when I'm
trying to teach an composition class to eschew use of sexist language, the
students come to see anything suffixed with "-man" as a sexist term (and
yes, I see the irony --"dog" is a gendered term also--but the average
freshman doesn't see it).  

Both terms offer a metaphor based on the practice of building guardians of
straw to scare away rooks and crows (scarecrows).  Essentially, in a straw
man/straw dog argument the rhetor simplifies his opponent's position in
order to more easily topple it.  Example:  a congressional candidate says,
"We need to review the penal codes.  Our prisons are taking people who've
made major errors in judgment and turning them into professional criminals."
The opposition responds:  "My opponent wants to mollycoddle prisoners."

When I labelled Baron Aodhan's rhetoric "straw dogging," I meant simply that
he had over-simplified the issue.  As I noted before, archers receive
awards, I simply don't think they receive the right awards.  I believe the
remainder of my argument requires no clarification.  

As to Baron Aodhan's other comments, I see my wife has already addressed
most of them.  I did want to address one point, however.  His Excellency noted:

>It was rare in the Middle Ages for one to receive recognition (by way of titles
>or land) from the Crown; it was *extremely* rare to recieve such recognition
>more than once in a lifetime.  Yet, we have a system in which people actually
>expect to get such recognition several times over the course of a few years.
>From the records of the last few reigns during which I served as Zodiacus
>Herald, the Crowns of Ansteorra have been giving out, on average, over 500
>armigerous awards per year.  That's about 10% of the Kingdom being called up
>and formally recognized in Court.  Did 10% of England or France ever see their
>King in person, much less receive recognition in His Court?

As Lord Larkin already pointed out, we, Your Excellency, are the nobility.
Did 10% of the nobility receive actual recognition from the Crown in, say,
the fourteenth century?  I don't know.  Were the nobility of France and
England likely to decide that maybe it would be more fun to play with the
Black Powder Enthusiasts instead of being French because this France thing
just isn't any fun for the average player?  Certainly not.  

We have to remember, Your Excellency, that the SCA is no more than an
elaborate entertainment reliant upon membership and recruitment.  Giving out
an award in court to recognize the achievements of one individual provides
more than a momentary ego boost for the individual receiving the award.  The
award shows that the individual's efforts have not gone unnoticed.  This is
important for the individual, but it also conveys a similar message to
others in attendance, the message that the SCA recognizes and honors
dedication and good works.         

>We have too many awards and they are given out too freely.  What we have
>resembles, more than anything, the Boy Scout merit badge system. Is it really
>necessary to have awards and titles in order to recognize those who have done
>well?  Is not public acclaim from the Crown enough?

To some extent, I have to agree with His Excellency.  Our award system too
often does resemble the Boy Scout merit badge system.  Since the Scouts of
America is also a volunteer organization, I can see how some analogous
solutions would naturally arise.  My only objection to this award system is
when peers use it as an excuse to forestall recognition (Well, we can't make
her a Pelican; she hasn't even received a Sable Crane yet!).

As for the "too many awards" claim, I think Ansteorra just has too many
_armigerous_ awards.  No, Your Excellency, I was never Abacus Herald for
Atenveldt, but I never heard a single complaint from Abacus Herald.  I
occasionally heard the Aten Principal Herald note that the OP was
perpetually out of date.  Of course, that was five years ago.  Information
technologies have improved by leagues since the dark days of 1991, so I
suspect they've improved their situation some. 

Well, I'm supposed to be working.  Until I finish grading this pile of
papers, I remain

Yours in Virtual Service

Sir Lyonel Oliver Grace Baron, Thegn, MP, CHL, CKS, PGT, CPA, CPP, CIT, MA
working toward his PhD, former ETC(SS)(DV) USN and former BSA, EIEIO. :-> 
Dennis G. Grace
Postmodern Medievalist
Division of Rhetoric and Composition
Department of English
University of Texas at Austin
amazing at

Baro, metetz en guatge                    |  Lords, pawn your castles,
Chastels e vilas e ciutatz                |  your towns and cities.
Enanz qu'usquecs no'us guerreiatz         |  Before you're beat to the draw,
                                                    draw your swords.

                   -- Bertran de Born (a really fun Viscount)

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