Two Examinations of the Merits of the Structured Education vs. the Impromptu Education

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In both William Wordsworth’s poems Expostulation and Reply and The Tables Turned and Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, the authors draw comparisons between the structured, book inspired and mentor-led education and the impromptu, nature inspired, self-taught education. While some would argue “an education is an education”, Wordsworth and Shelley clearly hold their own beliefs of which system of education is superior. Although both authors convey their feelings through their works, Wordsworth attacks the book-based education directly in the form of a dialogue between two amicable companions while Shelley indirectly advocates the more informal education through the interaction of characters. The authors make their case to the reader through: the moral condition of the “educated” after the education; the interaction of the student with those around them; and the emphasis on nature, both organic and human. Within both the poetry and the novel, the question of the moral condition of the “educated” is examined by the authors. In Wordsworth’s poems, William calls attention to the tendency of book-learned students to “murder to dissect” (The Tables Turned. line 28). Though the imagery of Wordsworth in The Tables Turned is mild when compared to Shelley’s description of Victor’s experiments, the imagination takes over in the meaning of the words. For Wordsworth, the structured, book-based education is destructive for the sake of knowledge; a trait he finds reprehensible. William refers to this tendency as a “meddling intellect” that “Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things” (The Tables Turned, 26-27). William calls Matthew to abandon the books on which he bases his knowledge for the more noble and free education provided by nature. In Shelley’s novel, Victor and his Creature are the two main, moral examples of education and the havoc it can impose on the student.
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