Chesterton on Dickens on education

It is singular that Dickens, who was not only a radical and a social reformer, but one who would have been particularly concerned to maintain the principle of modern popular education, should nevertheless have seen so clearly this potential evil in the mere educationalism of our time -- the fact that merely educating the democracy may easily mean setting to work to despoil it of all the democratic virtues. It is better to be Lizzie Hexam and not know how to read and write than to be Charlie Hexam and not know how to appreciate Lizzie Hexam. It is not only necessary that the democracy should be taught; it is also necessary that the democracy should be taught democracy. Otherwise it will certainly fall a victim to that snobbishness and system of worldly standards which is the most natural and easy of all the forms of human corruption. This is one of the many dangers which Dickens saw before it existed. Dickens was really a prophet; far more of a prophet than Carlyle.
from G. K. Chesterton's 1911 essay on Charles Dickens's Our Mutual Friend.

1 comment:

  1. This is a wonderful condensation of one of the key issues assailing America's education system: divorcing the idealism that first attended on the provision of compulsory education from the practical and personal connections to its fruits in action. Much of what passes for education today increasingly occurs in a vacuum devoid of sociopolitical context, trapped as it is in the amber of No Child Left Behind and, to a lesser extent, Race to the Top. Well said, ma'am. And well met.