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Fact and Fancy in children’s education Essay

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When Dickens was a very young child, he would think about anything a normal child would think about. E.g. castles and dragons, this is the world of fancy, but this is also in conflict with, his education at school, the world of fact. The world of fact is a name for how the children of those times were taught; they wouldn’t talk about anything to do with the world of fancy, only facts were useful for their future job so only facts were taught.

In Dickens’ book Hard Times he describes this method of teaching as having one part of their “tender young imaginations” replaced by a “grim mechanical substitute.” This also relates to the title of the chapter, ‘Murdering the Innocents’ Thomas Gradgrind also numbers his pupils, “Girl number twenty” like machinery, computer 1 and computer 2.Again, Dickens shows how Gradgrind’s style of education turns the children into an object rater than a person by giving them numbers. At the end of Chapter 1 he referred to the children as vessels “then and they’re arranged in order,” he must have been referring to this numbering system. In modern times in the army, a solider in training is referred to as a “jarhead”, an empty “vessel” that is filled only with useful information (fact) and is emptied of all useless information (fancy). This could be used to state that the children were being trained for one main purpose.

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The main character is introduced, Sissy Jupe or Cecilia Jupe. Sissy lives by the philosophy of emotion, (fancy) she is a character who is only new to the world of fact as she is from the circus which is the world of fancy. Sissy has trouble adjusting to this world of fact and fact alone as she curtseys and blushes. Sissy Jupe’s father is part of the traveling circus in town for a short while and Thomas Gradgrind hates everything the circus stands for, with all its fun and creativity (fancy) so he reshapes her into a more respectable form. The circus where Sissy comes from is seen by Gradgrind to be opposed to the style of education at that time. Thomas Gradgrind has a hatred for Sissy because they both oppose each other, Fact Vs Fancy.

When Bitzer is introduced, Sissy is not able to recollect factual definitions off by heart on the spot, Dickens’ gives us an interesting description of Bitzer compared to Sissy. “That she seemed to receive a deeper colour from the sun, the boy was so light-eyed and light-haired that the rays appeared to draw out of him what little colour he ever possessed.” This is Dickens’ telling us about the children of Thomas Gradgrind’s style of teachings. The sunlight is the world and has different effects on these two children.

Sissy is a child of the natural world, and her innocence has not been taken away, the sunlight seems not to have her taken away her colour. However, Bitzer on the other hand is a product of the education system; all natural life is taken away from him and you get the sense that he has been drained of spirit and personality making him no more than a robot who only responds when he is put into action by Thomas Gradgrind. This was how dickens was brought up; as he wanted to become a writer he was always faced with the conflict of Fact versus Fancy in his life. Although this was the case he is one of the greatest 19th century writers ever and his books are still being read all over the world and are used as prime examples of life in the 19th century.

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