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In Hard times we see two versions of the world of education. The first view is that of Thomas Gradgrind’s and his “model school”. A place where facts are valued and imagination is regarded as unimportant. This is the utilitarian view. The second view is contrasted with the utilitarian view and is that of Mr Sleary’s circus. This is a place with much knowledge valuing both imagination and education. A place without the wealth of the Gradgrind’s but much in humanity. This is the “fanciful” world. I think Dickens is telling us that there are many different ways of bringing up and educating children.
It is about getting the right balance between education and imagination. For example Sissy was brought up by her father and didn’t go to school but was quite well educated as she “used to read to him,” but her father let her use her imagination as she read the “wrong books” from Gradgrind’s point of view. Which were about “Fairies … and the Hunchback and the Genies. ” But when she went to Gradgrind’s house to live there she was cut off from having an imagination, as so was struggling to learn facts. The reader knows this as Sissy says, ” I am – O so stupid!
” when really she isn’t stupid at all, it is just that she has been forced to be brought up the utilitarian way, which is the wrong way for her, as she is used to having a balance between education and imagination but Gradgrind hasn’t allowed it. She “became low – spirited, but no wiser. ” This is because she has an emotional memory and so she can’t learn the facts because she is being taught with a utilitarian view and so she can’t attach a feeling to what she is being taught. This is how Dickens implies that different people learn different ways and at different rates.
For Gradgrind it could be argued that it was the right way for him as he was educated by his father the utilitarian way. He became a model pupil and owned a school. The reader knows that he was a model pupil as Dickens tells us “five young Gradgrinds … were models everyone. ” And “They had been lectured at from their tenderest years. ” And in Gradgrind’s eyes this had worked so “He intended every child to be a model”. But what Gradgrind doesn’t realise is that all children are different and need to be brought up different ways, which is what Dickens is suggesting to the reader.