Murdering The Innocents

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In the excerpt entitled “Murdering the Innocents” from Charles Dickens novel, “Hard Times”, the reader is given a glimpse into Britain’s school system in the 1850’s. The passage tells of a very stern school headmaster, Thomas Gradgrind, who has no room in his life or in his teaching methods for unnecessary facts, slang or the social devices of language that he deems a product of laziness and idiocy. When questioning one of his students, he is very critical of everything she says, no doubt in the hopes of righting her “laziness” before it spirals out of control or infects the rest of his class. While Gradgrind’s classroom might seem unreasonably strict, and in many cases, unsensitive or cold, such was the way the education system was at that time. But can any aspects of Gradgrind’s methods be incorporated into today’s educational system? Firstly, the girl in question, Celia Jupe, makes the mistake of referring to herself as Sissy, a nickname her father has given her. Gradgrind immediately corrects her on the proper way in which she should refer to herself and that such nicknames have no place in his classroom. In today’s society, this behavior would be so foreign to the western educational system, especially in dealing with children. One might argue that it has its place, perhaps utilized by a sadistic drill sergeant addressing a platoon of new recruits, but not in a classroom. The role of a teacher is ultimately to teach, but also to relate in some way to a student, building a common bridge of trust and respect. To belittle someone just because they prefer a shortened version of their name immediately shuts down any viable communication between student and teacher. Another educational device Gradgrind uses is in classifying students by numbers. He refers to the girl as girl twenty when taking attendance. Although the author conveys this as cold, it is an aspect

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