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Honorary Doctorate Acceptance Speech: JM Coetzee Makes the Case for Men in Primary Education

JM Coetzee

Nobel laureate JM Coetzee was in Johannesburg today to receive an Honorary Doctorate in Literature from Wits University as part of their December graduation ceremony. In his address given at the event, Coetzee noted the male graduates in the Humanities and said that it was a relief to see that men have not entirely abandoned the field.

JM CoetzeeThe Childhood of JesusHere and NowScenes from Provincial LifeDiary of a Bad YearSlow ManElizabeth Costello

Coetzee, who started his career as a teacher and went on to lecture at the State University of New York at Buffalo, the University of Cape Town, the University of Adelaide and the University of Chicago, made the case for male teachers in primary education, saying that “caring for children, opening new windows for them, giving them new ways to see the world, encouraging them but also correcting them, praising them and sometimes consoling and comforting them, is not a role restricted to women, that men can do it too”.

He also thanked women who “have been the backbone of the teaching profession” and said that he was one of those “unformed children who was turned into a human being by the hands of women”. Read Coetzee’s complete address:

JM Coetzee Address

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Books LIVE livetweeted from the event using #jmc:

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Recent comments:

  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    December 10th, 2012 @18:16 #

    Apologies for misspelling (or rather, cutting and pasting a misspelling of) John's name half the time.

    All in all, it was quite an interesting outing.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Kelwyn Sole</a>
    Kelwyn Sole
    December 11th, 2012 @07:40 #

    The literary critics in the old days were right: it's impossible to write fiction about SA, it's its own satire.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Carolyn</a>
    December 11th, 2012 @11:17 #

    Interestingly, JM Coetzee's mother was a primary school teacher, which could account for his strong feelings on the subject... but, according to Arnon Grunberg in this article ( Coetzee takes on different personas when delivering speeches and all versions of the "I" Coetzee speaks of are, in fact, fictions.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Kelwyn Sole</a>
    Kelwyn Sole
    December 11th, 2012 @21:23 #

    This is a variation of the idea promoted by David Atwell some time ago that Coetzee's work does not partake in ideology, but comments on ideology. I don't buy it.

  • Anne Townsend
    Anne Townsend
    December 12th, 2012 @13:08 #

    What an extraordinary message. He is one of the few Sane Voices out there. I've always loved his writing on animal rights but this is equally relevant.

    'Why is it that education, whose job is to nurture the soul, attracts so many grey bureacrats?'

    The misery of my years both at school, and in the UCT Eng Dept, left me with exactly that question.


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