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Explain how the theme of education is presented in Hard Times. What comments do you think Dickens might be making about his own times?

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Introduction

GCSE English Coursework: Explain how the theme of education is presented in Hard Times. What comments do you think Dickens might be making about his own times? Remember to comment on: * The presentation of Gradgrind * The presentation of the classroom * The presentation of the children * The presentation of the teacher, M'Choakumchild and his teaching method In this piece I intend to explain how Dickens is trying to represent education in the Victorian era and how he feels about the style of teaching that is widely used during his times. I also intend to make references to how the representation of Victorian schools by Dickens compares, historically to the actual conditions in a school from the Victorian era. As soon as the book begins we are introduced to a style of teaching that is dependent only on facts. One of the main characters of the novel is Thomas Gradgrind and he is the enforcer of this utilitarian style of education and is described as a man who is very strict. Dickens introduces us to this character with a description of his most central feature: his monotone appearance and attitude. "Stick to facts, sir!" This exclamation suggests that the character likes to shout and sound firm. The short, punchy sentence suggests an assertive and strong character. Dickens also makes Gradgrind seem boring and grating by the gravelly and rough sound of his name and how it is pronounced. "Grind", in particular suggests the grindstone, and flogging away at work constantly and is associated with the mechanical, repetitive drudgery of the factory system. ...read more.

Middle

This shows how the children aren't treated as individuals with personalities by the adults. And instead are expected to act like parrots. As a result of this rough emotionless approach to teaching the children are not seen in the best light. Dickens provides a vivid image of the children in the classroom and adult's perceptions of them. "In such terms, no doubt, substituting the words 'boys and girls', for 'sir', Thomas Gradgrind now presented Thomas Gradgrind to the little pitchers before him, who were to be filled full of facts." This shows how Gradgrind sees his pupils. He sees them as objects which have to be taught the rigid facts or else they will not succeed. Dickens also makes good use of a metaphor in labeling the children as "pitchers". This means that Gradgrind sees the children as being things which it is necessary to fill with facts, and therefore because a pitcher would be filled with water, they are similar because both have to be filled with something. It also shows that the children are not seen as being young boys and girls but are instead referred to as 'sir,' which is much more formal and discards the frame of mind which would see them as being younger and therefore incapable of Gradgrind's formalities. This is why he is so harsh with his teaching, as he expects the pupils to understand what is being taught just because he does. The children are seen as being polite and compliant towards their teachers. "Sissy Jupe, sir," explained number twenty, blushing, standing up, and curtseying." ...read more.

Conclusion

Also in the speech he states "I have never seen among the pupils, whether boys or girls, anything but little parrots and small calculating machines", this shows how he believes that children make no attempt to take part in their lessons at all and show no desire to. Dickens obviously desired a more positive, interactive and stimulating atmosphere to work in and wanted children to use their creativeness and imagination not crush their fancy with facts. This would then equip them for life as thinkers and innovators, not as 'pitchers' of facts. He is also distressed by the 'factory' style approach to the children and their education. He exaggerates this to show the 'production line' attitude to education is wrong and does not help the child. He believes that the school in Hard Times treats all children the same and there is no exception to the rule. He sees it as a rather utilitarian style approach, a 'one size fits all' kind of regime and believes that this system has obviously failed. His distress seem to turn to the kind of anger a activist would show in a protest and in a way his writing of the book is his form of a protest which is made through humour. He strongly believes that children at such an early stage in their childhood are too young to be exposed to such a formal and rigorous style of education and should instead be allowed to express their emotions and have their youthful imaginations nurtured. ?? ?? ?? ?? Jordan Wain 21 November 2004 10PMM ...read more.

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