Facts. Hard Times,Gradgrind and The Wall

“In this life, we want nothing but Facts,sir, nothing but Facts”. (5)

“Girl Number 20, unable to define a horse” (7)

Sissy could of course defined a horse, but it would not have been in the terms that Gradgrind would have liked to hear. She would have said that they are magnificient creatures with shiny coats that have a loving streak and could be encouraged (not trained), to performed tasks when they so loved their master.

But Gradgrind, who I would think had no real reason to be in the classroom, and the aptly named M’Choakumchild wanted only facts in this chapter of Hard Times entitled ‘Murdering the Innocents’. Mr M’Chakumchild would strangle every bit of creativity and playfulness out of every pupil in this utilitarian world.

When Sissy Jupe told Gradgrind that her father “belongs to the horseriding, ” she was in fact talking about the trick riding of horses in a circus, for the entertainment of people. Gradgrind was adamant that he must have a more nobler, more useful profession, that of a “veterinary surgeon, a farrier and a horsebreaker”. Imagination and playfulness killed (or at least stunned), mission accomplished.

In this extended version of the filmclip of The Wall, by Pink Floyd, we see the master admonishing the boy in the class for reading poetry. Again the arts, imagination, and playfulness are killed.

The education of children was purely for the results.Little has changed. Education is not for the growing of the mind or extending the imagination, but for the testing of the mind and comparing it to others who were taught the same thing. Children are taught to compete. Who can remember the lessons taught, be compliant to the rules given and tow the line the best? It is really not for the betterment of the pupils but for the advancement of the teachers. The teachers and schools can show how well they do their jobs, and therefore compete with the funding of the almighty dollar. Think NAPLAN (for international readers, please google it).

Teachers, mentors, parents and others need to produce innovative thinkers of our children. To just be thinking along the same lines will not cut it in a world that is dying, in a world where things always need to be done better. We need to teach children to think more for themselves, to explore, to use their imagination.

I hope that in the future we might encourage children to ask why, and when they do, we will not answer with the classic “Because I said so”.






Filed under 19th Century Literature

11 responses to “Facts. Hard Times,Gradgrind and The Wall

  1. Hi Dave,
    I really enjoyed reading this post about “Hard Times” and Mr Gradgrind’s idea of education. I find it interesting that you compare this idea to our education system now and think you make a good point about children being taught to compete as a way of life and be constantly tested in ways that are not necessarily their strengths. Unfortunately I think sometimes testing is a necessary part of life, without it, it is hard to see those who may need help, such as children with autism, and by receiving early intervention it can assist them in their future, because at the end of the day you need to be a functional part of society to get anywhere really. If that makes sense. I think there is potential for the education system to find ways of doing this that are less of a competition though, especially in a primary school setting where it is really unnecessary.
    I really liked the pictures and video clip you chose to include with your blog post, it made for interesting breaks within the writing. I’d say there are a few misplaced past tense words at the beginning of the blog that you might want to just review. Really nice piece of writing with interesting content though.
    Cheers 🙂
    “Children must be taught how to think, not what to think – Margaret Mead”

    • Thanks, I will look at the misplaced words. “To be a functional part of society” Is that the same as being useful? is that a utilitarian point of view? If a person is tested and thought to be Autistic, then they can receive help to understand concepts perhaps, but even the most needy people in our society, ones unable to function are still part of society and it is up to the rest of us to assist them if they are unable to do things for themselves. Such is human dignity. Thanks for your comments. I love the quote by Margaret Mead. If this is of interest to you, please check my other blog entry on Summerhill.
      I have essay one somewhere on my computer is you wish to read.

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  4. barefootfairy42

    Hi Dave,
    I very much enjoyed reading this entry. I agree with the your point about children asking why. We need philosophy in our schooling system though I understand why it is left out of the syllabus. In a society where everyone is just a cog in the machine, why would we want children thinking for themselves? They might rebel!!
    Also, Another Brick in the Wall works so well with your blog topic. I also thought of it when I read the first chapters, I wouldn’t be surprised if Roger Waters read Hard Times.
    Just a couple of stray commas and a question mark if I want to be picky.
    Wonderful writing, I look forward to reading more!
    Audrey 🙂

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  6. Hi Dave,

    You have truly constructed an incredible response and argument on Hard Times, particularly Gradgrind’s philosophy on the utter importance of facts. It was incredibly interesting how you have focused on Gradgrind’s philosophy and its detrimental effects within the education system, and have related it to todays current educational context; something quite controversial, but your evidence is most definitely captivating in its honesty. Personally, as a future educator, I would like to create a classroom environment that isn’t purely focused on results and competition, as I know from experience that growing up in competitive institutions is not healthy for the mind or spirit. However, to argue, “Education is not for the growing of the mind or extending the imagination” is rather critical as it really does vary upon the type of educator a student gets, as well as the time and effort the educator puts in to developing a relationship with their students to embrace their individuality and assist their students to build upon their strengths. However, I do agree that a greater emphasis needs to be placed on teaching children to be independent thinkers, so that they are enabled to embrace their creativity and use their imagination to explore the greater world. It would be completely tragic if all children were taught to think alike, and all thoughts were mere facts and rationalisation.

    Best of luck with the rest of the semester 🙂

    • Amanda, please look at a posting on here made in 2013 called Summerhill. It is something as a future educator that I think aught to be looked at. Of course the innovative thinker who started Summerhill went a little too far but I do think there is room to let children express themselves and to study what it is that interests them. Thank you for your comments.

  7. Hello Dave! My British Literature students are about to embark on a new unit – Dickens’ Hard Times! I’m checking to see if you still respond to comments here because I may have students respond to you about your blog post:)

    • Unfortunately I am not using the internet on a regular basis. But my postal address is 5/45 Cessnock Rd Weston nsw 2326 AUSTRALIA. I would be keen for penpals.

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