by Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens wanted to attack the failings of education and the
wrong-headedness of the prevailing philosophy in education. He
believed that many schools discouraged the development of the
children’s imaginations, training them as “little parrots and small
calculating machines” (Dickens used this phrase in a lecture he gave
in 1857). Nor did Dickens approve of the recently instituted teacher
training colleges. These had been set up in the 1840s, after the
British government acknowledged the need to raise the standard of
education in schools. The first graduates of these training colleges
began teaching in 1853, a year before the publication of Hard Times.
M’Choakumchild, the teacher in Gradgrind’s school (which was a non
fee-paying school that catered to the lower classes), is Dickens’s
portrait of one of these newly trained teachers.
Many educators agreed through time-sharing Dickens’s view of what were
wrong with the schools. They believed there was too much emphasis on
cramming the children full of facts and figures, and not enough
attention given to other aspects of their development, for example “'NOW,
what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts.
Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out
everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon
Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the
principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the
principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!'”
Dickens chooses to begin the novel in the classroom, which he depicts
as a microcosm of the inhuman world ou...
... middle of paper ...
in the moon; it was up in the moon before it could speak distinctly.
No little Gradgrind had ever learnt the silly jingle, Twinkle,
twinkle, little star; how I wonder what you are! No little Gradgrind
had ever known wonder on the subject, each little Gradgrind having at
five years old dissected the Great Bear like a Professor Owen, and
driven Charles's Wain like a locomotive engine-driver. No little
Gradgrind had ever associated a cow in a field with that famous cow
with the crumpled horn who tossed the dog who worried the cat who
killed the rat who ate the malt, or with that yet more famous cow who
swallowed Tom Thumb: it had never heard of those celebrities, and had
only been introduced to a cow as a graminivorous ruminating quadruped
with several stomachs.” This shows a bit more about Gradgrind's views
on education and the way he raises his children.
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