What is Bounderby's definition of education in Hard Times?

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In Hard Times, Bounderby claims that his rags-to-riches, solid-fisted type of learning is just as effective as traditional learning. Since he presents to people a fake rags-to-riches story, he claims that he learned from the streets and from vagabonds rather than from formal education.

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In chapter 4 of the novel Hard Times by Charles Dickens, we learn that the characters of Gradgrind and Bounderby are friends who have very different views of things.

Josiah Bounderby, the best friend of Gradgrind, understands his friend's views of education since his role (Gradgrind's) as superintendent of schools prescribes that he holds a strong philosophy about it. Hence, Gradgrind's philosophy is that schools should teach cold, hard facts for education to be effective.

In contrast, Bounderby claims that, while he did not get the benefits of any type of formal education, he was able to get by and thrive by learning from the things around him. He claims that he

... learnt his letters from the outsides of the shops ... and was first able to tell the time upon a dial-plate, from studying the steeple clock of St. Giles's Church, London, under the direction of a drunken cripple ...

We know that Bounderby is not only exaggerating, but flat-out lying. He has never been a rags-to-riches story to the degree that he tells his "facts." He is just someone with a lot of talent who is able to reach the top with hard work like many other people.

However, Bounderby is adamant in presenting this version of his personal narrative, presumably as a way to make his successes seem all the more incredible. As such, he is proud to say that he did not get any kind of formal education, and claims that his knowledge acumen stems from exposure to abandonment in the streets, where he was a mistreated, abused, and neglected child.

He is none of those things.

Perhaps the strongest argument that Josiah Bounderby poses against formal education is evident in the impressive speech he gives Mrs. Gradgrind. Let us break it down.

Tell Josiah Bounderby of Coketown, of your district schools and your model schools, and your training schools, and your whole kettle-of-fish of schools; and Josiah Bounderby of Coketown, tells you plainly, all right, all correct—he hadn't such advantages ...

This excerpt of his speech shows that Bounderby takes himself quite seriously and points at the school system in a challenging way, as if saying to it, "Look at me, I still made it even without getting any type of schooling because I was too poor and miserable to go to school."

... let us have hard-headed, solid-fisted people—the education that made him won't do for everybody ...

Here, Bounderby calls himself a hard-headed, solid-fisted man of the people who learned from hard knocks. He puts himself even higher up in the pedestal by stating that his hard-knock learning is not for everyone, but for strong people like himself.

... and you may force him to swallow boiling fat, but you shall never force him to suppress the facts of his life.

This shows that Bounderby is not ashamed to say that he has no formal schooling and that his learning came from vagabonds and the streets. These are "facts" he shows off with pride because they are part of the false narrative he imparts about himself being a success story that comes "from scratch."

Therefore, while it is Gradgrind, not Bounderby, who has a specific definition of education, Bounderby does have a philosophy about it: he believes that you can learn and make yourself thrive if you are willing to take your limits and miseries and make them work in your favor. While this is a wonderful philosophy, it is still fake, as he is not a rags-to-riches story. This is just an add-on to the false narrative of himself that he is trying to sell.

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