Letter to the Editor

Charles Dickens and utilitarian education

Monday, February 26, 2018

Dear Editor,

Joseph Conrad, novelist, when asked, “Why do you write novels,” he responded, “My purpose is to make you see.”

When Charles Dickens published the novel, Hard Times, in 1854, had he been asked, “Why did you write the novel, Hard Times,? he could have answered, “to show that what we sow, is what we reap.” And so there are three parts to his novel, Sowing, Reaping and Garnering and Dickens begins the “Sowing” by satirizing the education system that produces “robotic” rather than civilized, creative, productive citizens, Here is Dickens at his best in Chapter One of Sowing where Superintendent Gradgrind states his principles for his school, to wit:

“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 upon which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!”. . . .

The speaker, and the schoolmaster, and the third grown person present, all backed a little, and swept with their eyes the inclined plane of little vessels then and there arranged in order, ready to have imperial gallons of facts poured into them until they were full to the brim . . .


J.G. McHale

McCook, Nebraska

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