How we cite our quotes:
Miserable little propitiators of a remorseless Idol, how abject we were to [Mr. Creakle]! What a launch in life I think it now, on looking back, to be so mean and servile to a man of such parts and pretensions! (7.8)
As a bully, Mr. Creakle manages to get all of the boys to behave in his own image. To try and avoid his punishments, they play along with him when he whips one of their schoolmates – they laugh at his awful jokes so that he won't turn his humor or punishment on them. Mr. Creakle's style of bad schooling is so dangerous because it influences the boys to become worse themselves.
In a school carried on by sheer cruelty, whether it is presided over by a dunce or not, there is not likely to be much learnt. I believe our boys were, generally, as ignorant a set as any schoolboys in existence; they were too much troubled and knocked about to learn; they could no more do that to advantage, than any one can do anything to advantage in a life of constant misfortune, torment, and worry. (7.26)
The lesson here is pretty direct: beat boys, and they won't learn anything. But David does manage to learn something at Mr. Creakle's school, so long as Mr. Mell is there and is willing to help him with extra lessons. Would this entire story have been different if Mr. Mell had not been there to encourage David through this dark period of his life? Even though this book is supposed to be a novel of education, how much of David Copperfield's rise in the world is thanks to chance?
Doctor Strong's was an excellent school; as different from Mr. Creakle's as good is from evil. It was very gravely and decorously ordered, and on a sound system; with an appeal, in everything, to the honour and good faith of the boys, and an avowed intention to rely on their possession of those qualities unless they proved themselves unworthy of it, which worked wonders. We all felt that we had a part in the management of the place, and in sustaining its character and dignity. Hence, we soon became warmly attached to it. (16.117)
The contrast between Mr. Creakle's school and Doctor Strong's school is so strong that it is almost hard to believe. Is it truly possible that all the boys in Doctor Strong's school responded equally well to his style of discipline? Is Dickens trying to be realistic in this passage, or is this an idealistic model of what he believes a school should be? How effective is Dickens's representation of Doctor Strong's school in convincing you that this model of school is best?