A dry Ogre chalking ghastly white figures;The 19th century;Millennium Edition

31st December 1999 at 00:00
"Mr Gradgrind walked homeward from the school, in a state of considerable satisfaction. It was his school, and he intended it to be a model. He intended every child in it to be a model - just as the young Gradgrinds were all models.

"There were five young Gradgrinds, and they were models every one. They had been lectured at, from their tenderest years; coursed, like little hares. Almost as soon as they could run, alone, they had been made to run to the lecture-room. The first object with which they had an association, or of which they had a remembrance, was a large black board with a dry Ogre chalking ghastly white figures on it.

"Not that they knew, by name or nature, anything about an Ogre. Fact forbid! I only use the word to express a monster in a lecturing castle, with Heaven knows how many heads manipulated into one, taking childhood captive, and dragging it into gloomy statistical dens by the hair.

"No little Gradgrind had ever seen a face in the moon, it was up in the moon before it could speak distinctly. No little Gradgrind had ever learnt the silly jingle, "Twinkle, twinkle, little star; how I wonder what you are"!

"No little Gradgrind had ever known wonder on the subject; each little Gradgrind at five years old had dissected the Great Bear like a Professor Owen, and had driven Charles's Wain like a locomotive engine-driver.

"No little Gradgrind had ever associated a cow in a field with that famous cow with the crumpled horn who tossed the dog who worried the cat who killed the rat who ate the malt, or with that yet more famous cow who swallowed Tom Thumb: it had never heard of those celebrities, and had only been introduced to a cow as a graminivorous ruminating quadruped with several stomachs."

M' Choakumchild's Model School in 'Hard Times', 1854, by Charles Dickens

"I am not one to sneer at education, but I would not give 6d in hiring an engineman because of his knowing how to read or write. I believe that of the two, the non-reading man is best. If you are going five or six miles without anything to attract your attention, depend upon it you will begin thinking of something else. It is impossible that a man who indulges in reading should make a good engine driver; it requires a species of machine, an intelligent man, a sober man, a steady man, but I would much rather not have a thinking man.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel, 1844

"A young Englishman goes to school at six or seven years old; and he remains in a course of education till 23 or 24 years of age. In all that time his sole exclusive occupation is learning Latin and Greek (unless he goes to the University of Cambridge, and then classics occupy him entirely for about 10 years; and divide him with mathematics for four or five more); he has scarcely a notion that there is any other kind of excellence; and the great system of facts with which he is the most perfectly acquainted, are the intrigues of the Heathen Good; with whom Pan slept? with whom Jupiter? whom Apollo ravished?... It you have neglected to put other things in him, they will never get in afterwards; if you have fed him only words, he will remain a narrow and limited being to the end ..."

From 'The Edinburgh Review', October 1809

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today