Dickens and Education

Education for the masses albeit a basic education was created by the 1870 Elementary Education Act.

It created local school boards that were to be responsible for the ‘provision of elementary education’.

Some of them, however, had ‘significantly altered the legislators’ original concept of elementary schooling in terms of buildings, equipment, curricula and age range’  by establishing higher classes, ‘higher tops’ and even separate higher grade schools for older pupils who showed ability and commitment. A few had gone still further and created a new type of evening school for adults.
Gillard D (2011) Education in England: a brief history www.educationengland.org.uk/history

Which I suppose where ‘higher education’ comes from, but was it all in vain I ask?

Claire Tomalin who recently published a great biography of Charles Dickens has stated that

‘children are not being taught to read with the attention span necessary to appreciate the novelist’s works’. Claire Tomalin

There is no doubt (and probably more so under this government) that Dickens’s depiction of an unequal society is still of much relevance.

Tomalin goes onto to say that children were now unable to appreciate this due to:

“being reared on dreadful television programmes, Children are not being educated to have prolonged attention spans and you have to be prepared to read steadily for a Dickens novel and I think that’s a pity.”

I tend to agree, education seems to have fallen by the wayside with such vocational courses as ‘Beauty Therapy’ are available and encouraged for our youth.

Hopefully the celebrations of Dickens 200th Birthday will encourage more to read his fine works. Tuesday is the big day when we celebrate Dickens’s bi-centenary.

The celebrations will include a street party in Portsmouth, Hampshire, where the novelist was born, a wreath-laying ceremony at his grave in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey, London, attended by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall. A Global Dickens Read-a-thon will also take place in 24 countries from Albania to Zimbabwe, beginning in Australia with a reading from Dombey and Son.

Clare Tomalin who will be at Westminster Abbey for the wreath laying event goes on to say:

“after Shakespeare, the greatest creator of characters in English. He has gone on entertaining people since the 1830s and his characters’ names are known all over the world. “And because of the way he wrote, he adapts very well for theatre and even people who do not read him know about him from films, the TV and musicals. “You only have to look around our society and everything he wrote about in the 1840s is still relevant – the great gulf between the rich and poor, corrupt financiers, corrupt MPs, how the country is run by old Etonians, you name it, he said it.” Clare Tomalin

Tomalin’s Charles Dickens: A Life has been widely acclaimed by literary critics and was shortlisted for 2011’s Costa Book Awards biography prize.

  • Reading level: Ages 18 and up
  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The (October 27, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594203091