SUBSCRIPT: The Dickensian aspect — from 21st Century corporate 'school reform' to 19th Century child abuse, capitalism is always the same

A 19th Century sketch of the immortal English novelist, dramatist, and reporter Charles Dickens. Substance staff members recommend George Orwell's essay "Charles Dickens" to put into perspective some of the aspects of the Dickens reality. Thanks to Anne Pritchett and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Peace and Justice caucus for reminding us, that the stuff we're facing from Finance Capital today is not very much different from what was being force fed to working class people nearly 200 years ago by the avatars of Industrial Capitalism, before the banks and globalization crazies took over major parts of the world. The following quotes from Charles Dickens's novel "Hard Times" (which I taught several times to students at Amundsen High School in Chicago, along with other relevant works) are a reminder that this stuff is as old (and as odious) as Social Darwinism itself.

One of the echoes that comes through in the 21st Century in the USA, however, is the phrase "the Dickensian aspect", which is central to the expose of the hypocrisy of the media moguls in the HBO series "The Wire." Here is it from the 19th Century...

What you can't measure with a test

"'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 ... Stick to Facts, sir!' The scene was a plain, bare, monotonous vault of a schoolroom, and the speaker's square forefinger emphasized his observations by underscoring every sentence with a line on the schoolmaster's sleeve."

Cover of the Dickens novel Hard Times from the edition that was taught at Amundsen High School in Chicago in Advanced Placement English by Substance reporter George N. Schmidt. In its "education" scenes, Hard Times and the crazy Social Darwinism (and personal hypocrisy) it satirizes could be depicting Arne Duncan, Richard M. Daley, and Ron Huberman in the 21st Century, but it was written about the British "Lancaster" schools of the mid-19th Century.Charles Dickens began his novel "Hard Times" with these words more than 150 years ago. In this scene, a school headmaster named Thomas Gradgrind shares his educational philosophy with Mr. M'Choakumchild, a teacher. This "plain, bare monotonous vault of a schoolroom" sits on the edge of Coketown, a fictional industrial town of the mid-19th century. A few paragraphs later, the narrator describes the children sitting in the classroom as little vessels "ready to have imperial gallons of facts poured into them until they were full to the brim."

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"You don’t improve education by demoralizing the people who have to do the work every day.”

-Diane Ravitch