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Hard Times - Charles Dickens: 'Discuss the theme of education in Hard Times'

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Hard Times - Charles Dickens 'Discuss the theme of education in Hard Times' Charles Dickens was a great author of the 19th Century and his books are recognised and loved nation wide. Many people understand the meaning to his books, as they are not just plain fiction. In the novel Hard Times Dickens intensely criticises the British system of education and how it has evolved over the years: the 19th Century philosophy of 'Utilitarianism'. Dickens believed this system was a failure, as it changed children's minds and morals, and it is this novel that he attempts to show the horrors that this system has created. A principle was formed by Jeremy Bentham, the eighteenth century philosopher, calculating 'the greatest good for the greatest number'. This theory explained that self-interest was the primary motivating force behind all human conduct; people strived for pleasure and tried in vain to avoid pain. Bentham advocated a system of calculation known as 'moral arithmetic'. This was used whenever a decision had to be made about a particular choice of action, be it an individual deed or a law affecting million. The equation was a simple one: pleasure vs. pain. If all the factors fell in the direction of pleasure for the greatest number then the appropriate course of action was adopted. ...read more.


the good or evil, for love or hatred, for patriotism or discontent for the decomposition of virtue into vice, or the reverse, at any single moment in the soul of one of these its quiet servants, with the composed faces and the regulated actions. The 'sophisticated' utilitarian system of education robs the children of their childhood. It takes away all imagination, wonder and prosperity for them and replaces it with cold calculation and mathematical thought. This is not good as childhood is the greatest part of a person's life, and this education is not teaching them life skills, only how not to be clinically humane. Children are denied access to stories, thus halting their flourishing imagination at a sudden stop. They are exposed to statistics at an early age and therefore have a 'cold', mathematical future as they are constantly fed facts without any imagination to escape to. Children grow up to be just out for themselves, as selfishness and 'hardship' takes over them. They have been taught that humans desire nothing but material possessions and that they must do everything in their power to get these. This makes them cold and mechanical, as that is all they have been taught and imagination and happiness has been locked away from them. ...read more.


There he openly suggests two forms of educational emphasis: facts and imagination. Dickens suggests that the exclusion of the imagination and the mere pursuit of facts is inhuman and will, given time, produce disastrous results. The novel explores the consequences of planting a utilitarian philosophy in childhood. Tom, Louisa and Bitzer are all products of a system that is ultimately shown to be a failure. The irony of the agricultural metaphor or sowing and reaping gains considerable significance, given the novels preoccupation with industrialism. The central theme of the novel is the conflict of Fact and Fancy in children's education. The grim pursuit of facts is contrasted with the colourful and rich life of the imagination as experienced by the circus folk. When one of them is subjected to the rigours of Gradgrind's educational philosophy her human nature naturally rejects the attacks made on it: Sissy Jupe leans nothing from the artificially imposed educative processes familiar in the Gradgrind household. Nut, as we see later in the novel, her own essential goodness is instrumental in educating those suffering from the inadequacies of the Gradgrind philosophy. The children are denied the natural pursuits of childhood such as play, fantasy, fun and entertainment. They are 'dead' as children and are forced, by Gradgrind's system, to become unnatural children. They are therefore without essential qualities needed in adulthood and as of this they become in humane. Tom Spence ...read more.

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