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Discuss the theme of education in ‘Hard Times’ and a ‘Kestrel for a Knave’.

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Introduction

Hard Times & A Kestrel for a Knave Discuss the theme of education in 'Hard Times' and a 'Kestrel for a Knave'. Both the authors of 'A Kestrel for a Knave' and 'Hard Times' are critical of the education system of the era of time that they have came from and experienced. Charles Dickens, who wrote 'Hard Times' is criticising a 19th Century concept of life called utilitarianism which affects education in a bad way. Barry Hines is critical of the selective school system favoured in Britain and only started to fade in the 1970's. Both writers share the same view that pupils' individuality and freedom are being destroyed by the systems, and are being turned into either knowledge spewing machines, or are left neglected to rot on the loser shelf. The children's' lives are followed in the books, and are portrayed as victims of the systems. The consequences of this are both shown to be negative; in 'A Kestrel for a Knave' young Billy Casper's life is an awful one, and in 'Hard Times' when they reach adulthood they are unable to function properly. Both systems are shown to be failures. 'Hard Times' reflects social concerns in the mid 19th century. Society used to focus on 'the home' but the Industrial Revolution saw a change in this. People now focused on work, it was the object of their lives. This period brings to life 'Utilitarianism' - this was the solution to any problem or decision. It is the concept of determining whether one's action is right or wrong by the amount of happiness its consequences bring to an amount of people. An action or decision is deemed right if it has affected the majority of people in a good way, and no regard is given to the people in the minority. 'THE GREATEST GOOD FOR THE GREATEST NUMBER'. The theory tells that life has no room for 'fancy', which were things like art, entertainment, play - any use of the imagination which is not to make money or to benefit one in a materialistic way. ...read more.

Middle

It is an environment which fosters emotions and compassionate behaviour. The circus is free and is not restricted to one area. With a free flowing imagination, it cannot suddenly be suppressed and sent into submission. Bitzer then churns out many facts about the horse making up a definition. Dickens talks about Sissy being at one end of the room, and the sunlight covering and radiating her, whilst Bitzer is at the other end of the room and only just catches the end. 'The girl was so dark-eyed and dark-haired that she seemed to receive a deeper more lustrous colour from the sun.......the boy was so light-eyed and light-haired that the same self-rays appeared to draw out of him what little colour he ever possessed.' This tells me that Sissy has not yet had a chance for Gradgrind to drain her of colour and emotions, yet Bitzer, a frequent victim of Gradgrind's lessons, has been drained of these qualities and colourless, dull facts have taken their place. Childhood denied The environment in which people of the 'Hard Times' era grew up in was a very harsh and unfeeling and cold one. This was also true for Billy, his environment was similar to that of the Gradgrind children. They are stifled in their environment, prisoners of a world of utilitarianism. Gradgrind's school is very plain and bare, Dickens describing it as a 'monotonous vault', and being 'intensely whitewashed'. For pupils having to learn in this kind of environment would be extremely boring, and no encouragement is given to exercise imagination, so it wouldn't be exercised. And what Gradgrind is teaching will sink in more. The fact that they are referred to as numbers and not individuals - 'Girl number twenty, a definition of a horse,' makes the class seem like one big learning sponge, and in this environment they would not learn that anything else other that facts is important, which is exactly the message which Gradgrind is putting across. ...read more.

Conclusion

To this request Bizter's answer shows his utilitarian education to have been a complete success, as he comes out with: "...but I am sure that you know that the whole social system is a question of self interest.......I was brought up in that catechism when I was very young, Sir, as you are aware." This shows that he is completely self concerned, and all sign of feeling and compassion has ebbed away due to the system of education ground into him by Mr. Gradgrind himself, which does have a element of irony in it as it is Gradgrind who is begging him to break his own strongly abided by rules. Mr Gradgrind then offers him a princely sum to try and make him change his mind, and Bitzer even went as far as to make complicated calculations to see which would make him the most money in the end - and therefor declined Gradgrind's offer. His philosophy for making decisions is shown when he says: "I was made in the cheapest market, and have to dispose of myself of in the dearest." The fact that Bitzer does not have any grasp of loyalty, compassion, pity, or charity means that Tom is condemned. Poor Tom, a 'murdered innocent' who, devoid of feeling due to his father, became ruthless and heartless. Dickens exposes utilitarianism to be failing on human beings at one of the highest levels. The ending of Kes's seems slightly abrupt, considering that most mention of Billy with Kes in the book was with long and explicit language. This is probably to show how Kes has been ripped from Billy's life, and without her there is not much left, which is reflected in the short, emotionless language used to describe the burial. The ending is left rather ambiguously, we are not sure what path Billy is going to take. But by this Hines may have been getting across the fact that due to Kes, there is a different path he can take now, Billy has the choice to make life a bit better for himself. ?? ?? ?? ?? Michelle Louise Dell ...read more.

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