Can someone give an analysis of Thomas Gradgrind in Charles Dickens' "Hard Times"?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that Dickens uses his teacher character of Gradgrind to reflect many of the problems in the British educational system.  A strict utilitarian who is driven by calculations and profitable ends, he believes that education should be comprised of "fact, not fancy."  This sentiment compels him to drive into his students in Coketown a fact based curriculum where acquisition is critical and more acquisition is the purpose of education.  If we look at this idea, there is much here to analyze.  The first is that education should not simply consist of the education of facts.  Gradgrind's dismissal of what he would consider "fancy" represent critical elements of the education process.  Gradgrind does not teach his students the value of art, aesthetics, or even the notion of how to analyze the meaning of facts.  Gradgrind's education of decision making skills starts and ends with fact driven acquisition.  Little else seems to matter in this conception of education.  Dickens might be suggesting that schools which operate under these pretenses do more harm to students than good for they do not teach the value of emotions in the educational process and they severely limit the premise of imagination, critical to any emotional and cognitive development of children.  Dickens might be ahead of his time in such a criticism of Gradgrind's educational approach, and in what he sees as the approach of British schools.  I think it's essential to point out that none of Gradgrind's students can be deemed "successful" on both professional and moral grounds as a result of their education.I think this is where Dickens' analysis lies.  Namely, that the failure of the educational system to educate "the whole child" ends up failing its students, making them failures in their own worlds.