Discuss just what Gradgrind and the others appear to mean by “facts.”

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Gradgrind and the education he embodies emphasizes "quantifiable" and accurate detail.  This stress of factual knowledge lies mostly in being able to reduce all of learning to equations, formulas, and succinct understandings that deny multiple notions of expression.  The desire to engage in expression that is not rooted in fact is seen as "Fancy," or something that does not amount to value.  Gradgrind is a utilitarian who believes in "the greatest good for the greatest number."  Facts can benefit more people than supposed "fancy."  It is a very rationalist approach to education that was present in England, at the time, and served as the basis for the English Education System that was exported around the world through Colonialism.  This emphasis on fact relied heavily on Math and Science, and devalued artistic or emotional expressions of knowledge and understanding.  If this philosophy taught poetry, it did so in a manner that focused strictly on quantifiable elements within it, moving away from anything it would see as "fancy."  As a result, this type of education did not teach students how to assess value, how to make judgments, and how to interpret and synthesize elements that lay outside of facts.  It did not teach, that while it might benefit someone to lie and deceive, it is not morally acceptable to do so, a theme seen in the novel.  Marriages are not made out of love, but out of "a proper and prosperous alliance," which makes for many an unhappy individual.  Dickens, who became an advocate for change in the educational system throughout his life being a product of it, understood the limitations of an education steeped only in facts, steeped in only what the world is and not what it can be.