One of the things that Swift examined critically in Gulliver's Travels is the government's role in education. Where in the book does it talk about the government's role in education? What does it...

One of the things that Swift examined critically in Gulliver's Travels is the government's role in education. Where in the book does it talk about the government's role in education? What does it mean that the portrayal of education in Gulliver's Travels mirrors the debate over the issue today, as it centers around inequality and barriers to keep the wealthy and the elite dominant and prevent anyone from challenging that dominance? 

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When Gulliver is among the Lilliputians, he learns about their system of education. Swift writes, "parents are the last of all others to be trusted with the education of their own children." Parents must deliver their children, both boys and girls, to state-run nurseries when the children are 20 months old. There, the children are trained to occupy roles that are similar to those of their parents. In other words, the sons of the wealthy receive a particular form of education, and sons of the merchants receive another form of education (girls' education is different). Only the children of laborers do not attend school. 

State-run education is still a very important topic today and one that is fiercely debated. Some critics argue that American education perpetuates inequality, as the system of education among the Lilliputians does, because children of wealthier families generally go to schools with better resources and get better educations than do children of less well-to-do families. Therefore, the way in which Swift satirizes education in Gulliver's Travels mirrors the modern debate over the way in which our school system prevents social mobility and keeps the elite in a dominant position.