Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

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What is the role of education in Sense and Sensibility?

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Lucy was naturally clever; her remarks were often just and amusing; and as a companion for half an hour Elinor frequently found her agreeable; but her powers had received no aid from education: she was ignorant and illiterate; and her deficiency of all mental improvement, her want of information in the most common particulars, could not be concealed from Miss Dashwood, in spite of her constant endeavor to appear to advantage. Elinor saw, and pitied her for, the neglect of abilities which education might have rendered so respectable; but she saw, with less tenderness of feeling, [Lucy's] thorough want of delicacy, of rectitude, and integrity of mind ...

Jane Austen's Education

Biographies point out that Jane was sent away from home to be educated, although it was not for an extended number of years. Jane's own education was begun at home. Her father was a scholar and her mother was educated. With her father's extensive library, Jane could expand her formal education through her own readings. It is true that Jane, along with most women of her day, did not learn the classical languages of Greek and Latin, so even as the daughter of an eighteenth century Oxford proctor, her education was limited.

Education in the 1700s

The first thing that it is important to grasp is that prior to the eighteenth century (1700s), the number and variety of English dialects made a uniform language and, as a consequence, a uniform education impossible. It was only during the seventeenth century (1600s) that a "received English" with uniformity of grammar and vocabulary began to unite the multitude of dialects across the country; at least this was true in the upper classes where education was already somewhat prevalent. Although standardized English was shifting a standard grammar and vocabulary had come into existence. In addition, a standard for uniform education had come into existence. This is seen in the changes to public opinion evident toward education for both boys and girls that came to the fore in the eighteenth century (1700s).

Development of Education 1500–1800

With the closure of Catholic convent and church schools in the 1500s, grammar schools, funded by privately contributed endowments, were opened. The 1700s saw the beginning of charity schools where girls and boys were taught the needed skills to conduct themselves and to engage in productive work.

The changes in England in the 1500s in educational philosophy and practice because of the support given by humanists to higher education, meant education was evolving rapidly. Protestant reformers and Elizabeth I advocated for education for all children. Despite the slowing of educational enthusiasm as Puritanism grew more popular, the changes to educational philosophy and practice continued to gain ground through the 1600s and 1700s, with the greatest advances coming in the 1800s but occurring after Jane's death.

Upper Class Education

Throughout the 1700s, the children of the three levels of the upper classes began their educations by being tutored at home by...

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