Monday, July 23, 2012

Charles Dicken and Education

Thomas Gradgrind, in Dicken's Hard Times, declares his philosophy of education from the start :

"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! (9).

This is what exactly Thomas Gradgrind does. He teaches only facts to the kids, including his own children. He also beats out of them any cultivation of wonder and imagination. Dickens in Hard Times is critiquing industrialization and this type of education. It is the type of education that has no room for the arts or imaginative literature. It is a scientistic education believing only facts are real. Does this type of education harm or hurt Gradgrind's pupils? Dickens shows that it causes harm to the children. They receive a distorted education. It is only educating a part of who they are. True education must educate the whole person.

The novel describes how Gradgrind's two children are ill-prepared for the tasks of life. The son becomes a huge disappointment and embarrassment to the father and the daughter to please her father marries a cruel tyrant. It takes a girl who had been educated in both the head and the heart to provide help to this unfortunate family.

Isn't it strange how when budget cuts come around in education, the arts are the first thing to go? There is also the mis-belief that children should not be educated morally. C. S. Lewis said we teach our students to look down on morality and are surprised to find traitors in our midst. A true education will educate both the head and the heart. It will cultivate both the intellectual and moral virtues.

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