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Hard Times

Hard Times

by Charles Dickens

Education Quotes Page 1

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

'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!' (1.1.1)

It is interesting that even when giving these instructions, Gradgrind can't help but speak metaphorically. Even more interesting, the metaphor is one of nature ("plant nothing else, root out everything else"), exactly the thing that this educational system is hoping to go around.

Quote #2

So, Mr. M'Choakumchild began in his best manner. He and some one hundred and forty other schoolmasters, had been lately turned at the same time, in the same factory, on the same principles, like so many pianoforte legs. He had been put through an immense variety of paces, and had answered volumes of head-breaking questions. Orthography, etymology, syntax, and prosody, biography, astronomy, geography, and general cosmography, the sciences of compound proportion, algebra, land-surveying and leveling, vocal music, and drawing from models, were all at the ends of his ten chilled fingers. He had worked his stony way into Her Majesty's most Honourable Privy Council's Schedule B, and had taken the bloom off the higher branches of mathematics and physical science, French, German, Latin, and Greek. He knew all about all the Water Sheds of all the world (whatever they are), and all the histories of all the peoples, and all the names of all the rivers and mountains, and all the productions, manners, and customs of all the countries, and all their boundaries and bearings on the two and thirty points of the compass. (1.2.48-49)

The educational preparation of Mr. M'Choakumchild is so completely based on fact that even its mild gestures towards creativity manage to be completely non-creative and instead machine-like and conformist. He seems to be decorative, like a "pianoforte leg." But in reality, it's a leg that is just like all the others that have been made on the same lathe. He can teach drawing, but only "from models", and never from the imagination. He knows history – which in its best form is narrative – but the phrase "of all the peoples" gives us the idea that what he mostly knows is dates and events.

Quote #3

'You are extremely deficient in your facts. Your acquaintance with figures is very limited. You are altogether backward, and below the mark.' 'I am sorry, sir,' [Sissy] returned; 'but I know it is quite true. Yet I have tried hard, sir.' 'Yes,' said Mr. Gradgrind, 'yes, I believe you have tried hard; I have observed you, and I can find no fault in that respect.' 'Thank you, sir. I have thought sometimes;' Sissy very timid here; 'that perhaps I tried to learn too much, and that if I had asked to be allowed to try a little less, I might have — ' 'No, Jupe, no,' said Mr. Gradgrind, shaking his head in his profoundest and most eminently practical way. 'No. The course you pursued, you pursued according to the system — the system — and there is no more to be said about it. I can only suppose that the circumstances of your early life were too unfavourable to the development of your reasoning powers, and that we began too late. Still, as I have said already, I am disappointed.' (1.14.11-15)

Gradgrind is so married to his educational system that even in the face of its obvious failure (can Sissy really be the only student for whom it didn't work?) he blames her, and not his theories. This seems like a pretty astute observation of people who are ideologues of one kind or another.

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